Imagine building your kids a tree house that ends up becoming a beacon of sustainable design. Sound far-fetched? Not for the Boy Scouts of America1 (BSA), who set out to create an education center that would combine learning and fun in the most imaginative, environmentally friendly way possible.
The treehouse opened its doors in 2013 in the heart of BSA’s new 10,600-acre estate in southern West Virginia: the Summit Bechtel Reserve. Today, scouts from all over the country flock to this young adventurer’s dreamland to practice action sports, connect with nature – and learn how to protect our precious resources for future generations.
The Sustainability Treehouse is an impressive 125-foot-high tower that makes every kid’s dream of climbing a tree to the peak a reality. That would have been reason enough to build it. But as its name suggests, the treehouse is rooted in sustainability, both by being a classroom about sustainable systems – and by serving as an example of one.
The treehouse features stunning designs by innovative American design studios and agencies like Mithun, Volume Inc., and StudioTerpeluck. And BSA’s innovation and bold leadership in erecting the singular structure have been acknowledged with a long list of accolades, including a Top Ten Green Project award from the American Institute of Architects. The most important recognition, though, comes in the form of thumbs-up from the 65,000-plus kids who’ve gone through it and described the experience as a “smash hit” and “magical.”
At the end of the day, it’s them who will be in charge of spreading the sustainability message and pushing the envelope in their own fields to create future sustainable solutions like this one.
Why not make the process a soaring adventure?
FUN FACTS | The Sustainability Treehouse:
• was partly built with reused wood and steel from the area,
• uses rainwater for taps, toilets and water fountains,
• collects solar and wind energy,
• is bioclimatic, using natural lightning, heating and air conditioning,
• composts its toilet waste,
• is “water and energy net-zero”—it doesn’t consume more than it collects,
• was designed to very strict sustainability standards: the Living Building Challenge (similar to LEED).
All photos by Joe Fletcher.