The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College


Steve Bolinger, RA and Daniel Russoniello, AIA, LEED AP

01 December 2009

The new Wister Education Center and Greenhouse will be the latest “green” building on Swarthmore College’s campus and is anticipated to be its first silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building. By adhering to the standards and design principles established by the United States Green Building Council’s LEED Certification process, the building has been designed and constructed to minimize the environmental impact of the construction process as well as conserve energy and water throughout the life of the building. The new Wister Center builds on sustainable efforts Swarthmore College has implemented, adds new sustainable features to the campus, and uses some innovative design ideas. One of the hallmarks of “sustainable development” is that a project should be located in close proximity to previously established and developed areas. The benefits of this kind of site selection are two-fold: there is a quantifiable conservation of utility infrastructure and transportation cost (both in the short-term construction as well as the long-term use of the building) and there is a subjective, psychological benefit to the community and other users of the building in being able to walk or ride public transportation to the Wister Center. The Scott Arboretum relies on the efforts of hundreds of community volunteers. Many of these volunteers live within the borough of Swarthmore and will be able to walk or ride a bicycle to the Wister Center: as a result, bike racks are provided for volunteers and staff.

Another hallmark of “sustainable development” is that a project should make efficient, conservative use of the various resources that occur on its site. For instance, rainwater. There will be a green roof on the flat roof portion of the building and there is an underground cistern to the south of the greenhouse to collect rainwater. As rain falls, it is either collected by roofs and gutters and conducted to the green roof soil medium or into the underground rainwater cistern. The “grey” water from this cistern will then be used to irrigate the neighboring Terry Shane Teaching Garden. When the cistern is full, excess rainwater will be conducted into the existing Biostream that effectively slows the rate of runoff and allows the rainwater to percolate back into the groundwater system.

The proposed design for the landscape of the Wister Center includes native and drought resistant plants, and “educational rain water gardens.” These gardens will include plants that can live in wet or dry conditions that naturally clean rainwater before it percolates back into the ground or is sent to the underground cistern. The temperature of the earth is fairly constant in the range of 45-55 degrees F below the regional frost line: this is a naturally occurring resource that can be used to heat and cool buildings. In efforts to design a geothermal heat pump for the project, it became clear that a very costly part of the system would be the number of wells necessary to act as a heat sink for the system.

Thomas Cochran, Senior Project Manager of Planning and Construction for Swarthmore College, came up with an innovative idea the design team embraced: it involves using the campus’ chilled water loop in the McCabe Library as a heat sink or heat source (depending on the season) to heat and cool the Wister Center. This design benefits both the campus and the Wister Center by reducing the amount of energy needed to heat and cool both the new building as well as the water in the campus chilled water loop. It does this by allowing one building to “use” or absorb the heat expelled by the system in the other building or conversely to siphon the heat needed by one so there is less energy required to cool in the other. This is a symbiotic relationship made possible because the campus requires year-round cooling in the interior portions of some of the buildings (even in winter). This interconnected heat exchange process between the two building systems reduces the energy required to operate both. Solar radiation is a resource that must be managed on any site. The design of the site is sensitive to the effects that paved and/or impervious areas can have in collecting and reflecting solar radiation. Every effort has been made to reduce dark, heat absorbent materials in favor of light colored, reflective materials or natural, planted areas. Conversely, we are harvesting sunlight through the use of “light tubes” that bring natural light into the interior of the building. These are essentially high efficiency skylights that reduce the need for artificial lighting during the day. The design also captures daylight through windows that also provide exterior views into the landscape. The building is designed to conserve energy through the use of efficient light fixtures and motion detector light switches that provide artificial light only when it is needed (when individual rooms are occupied). Similarly, the building is conservative in its use of water: low flow water-saving plumbing fixtures are used throughout.

In the construction of the building, every effort has been made to conserve natural resources in the building materials: the building is fabricated from sustainable or renewable materials. From the fly ash, which is an industrial byproduct used in the concrete, to the wood products used on and in the building, the design team sought out materials that are recycled, renewable or sustainably harvested. In addition, all of the lumber in the building has been sustainably harvested or is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood. A portion of the wood shingles used on the exterior of the building was harvested from dawn redwood trees, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, removed from the Arboretum to build Alice Paul and David Kemp Residence Halls; this is an efficient and sustainable way to locally recycle natural resources. Every effort has been made to recycle the waste products from the construction of the building. The College and the Arboretum required the construction team to submit monthly reports that detail the various materials and quantities of construction by-products recycled. As of July 31st, 118 tons of construction by-products, or 86.1% of the project’s total waste has been diverted from landfills. The design of the building includes dedicated sorting and recycling areas for trash, plastics, glass, metal and paper. As with most buildings on Swarthmore’s campus, these areas are planned to be integral to the building from the onset to ensure continued management of recyclable materials. Similarly, the cleaning and maintenance of the building will include the use of “green” detergents and cleaning agents.

Lastly, the Wister Center will be largely powered by renewable energy: a large portion of the electricity consumed by the College is “green” power generated by renewable energy facilities. These are all College-wide programs that ensure this facility will encourage ongoing conservation of our natural resources.

Houzz Pro Spotlight: How Rural Regulations Can Enrich Your Country Estate

A West Chester architect shares design opportunities - 27 March 2017

Archer & Buchanan Projects Win National Awards

AIA Philadelphia - 25 November 2013

50 Years of Stuckeman Works

Archer & Buchanan Architecture Feature - 1 May 2013

AIA Small Projects Structure Winner

Architectural Products
 - 1 July 2008

Please Vote for ABA's Cor-Ten Cattails

Architizer - 3 March 2015

Far from the Shire, a Hobbit House in PA

Associated Press - 12 December 2012

Far from the Shire, a Hobbit house in PA Country

Associated Press Video - 12 December 2012

Digital Underground

Bucks Life - 1 September 2013

On the drawing board

Building Design + Construction - 1 July 2013

Historic Stonework Defines New Residential Design

Building Stone Magazine - 28 June 2017

Estates of Excellence

Chester County Town & Country Living - 1 October 2001

Bucolic Beauty, Classic Charm

Chester County Town & Country Living
 - 1 June 2005

Preserving Land and History

Chester County Town & Country Living
 - 1 April 2005

An Epic in the Making

Chester County Town & Country 
Living - 23 October 2008

Unique Homes - A House fit for a Hobbit

CNN Money - 28 November 2011

Vision Becomes Reality for Tolkien Collector

Collector’s News - 1 October 2006

Fit for a Hobbit

Cottages & Bungalows - 1 February 2009

Home of the Month

County Lines - 1 March 2013

All Around Farm

County Lines - 1 February 2013

73rd Tour of Tours

County Lines - 1 September 2013

Kimberton Sanctuary

County Lines - 1 September 2012

72nd Tour of Tours

County Lines - 1 September 2012

Arts & Crafts Inspiration

County Lines - 1 February 2010

71st Tour of Tours

County Lines - 1 September 2011

Preserving & Celebrating History

County Lines Magazine - 31 January 2017

Mercer Hill Farm

Covertside - 1 December 2007

Ground broken for Lenfest Center

Daily Local News - 24 May 2012

The return of an old favorite is brewing in Greenville

Delaware Community News - 16 August 2009

Lenfest Center at the ChesLen Preserve dedication planned

Delaware County News Network - 1 June 2013

Archer & Buchanan's Cattail Fence Wins Design Award - 20 September 2012

Soundproof Theater Fits Country Lifestyle

Electronic House
 - 1 May 2008

A cottage fit for a hobbit

Fine Homebuilding - 1 May 2007

Adirondack, Shingle Style

Fine Homebuilding - 1 April 2005

Sounds as Good as it Looks

Fine Homebuilding - 1 March 2005

Mud Room's the Name, Organizing's the Aim

Fine Homebuilding Magazine - 24 September 2015

Arts & Crafts and Automobiles

Fine Homebuilding Magazine - 1 March 2017

Swarthmore's New Greenhouse

Garden Design - 24 February 2010

On the Fence

Gardening Australia Magazine - 1 June 2015

Scott's new Wister Center receives Green Building of America Award

Greater Philadelphia Gardens - 20 August 2009

Old-fashioned Entertainment

HD Living - 1 January 2008

"Home Sweet Home" in a Barn

HGTV - 23 February 2017

5 Houses Where You Can Pretend to Be a Hobbit

HGTV Front Door - 9 December 2013

Can't go wrong with...

HGTV Magazine - 1 April 2013

Converting an Old Horse Barn in Pennsylvania

Hooked on Houses - 5 September 2013

15 Dream Closets to Admire

Houzz - 23 January 2017

Renovation Detail: The Transom Window - 3 May 2012

Groom your Rooms with Kentucky Derby Decor - 29 April 2012

Staircase Landings Worth a Linger - 10 November 2012

8 Fireplaces to Feed Your Kitchen's Style - 21 January 2013

Fall in Love with Lacquer - 7 January 2016

Sample Bright Color in the Kitchen - 27 February 2012

Beauty Goes Beyond the Eye of the Beholder - 28 August 2013

14 Gardens Straight out of Fairy Tales - 31 January 2015

25 Most Bookmarked Houzz Tours of 2012 - 1 January 2013

25 Dream Homes to Satisfy Your Soul - 17 June 2012

Help Your Stair Landing Take Off - 6 June 2012

9 Ways to Boost Winter Curb Appeal - 28 November 2013

4 Hobbit Houses Bring Charm to the Landscape - 1 December 2012

Academy Attic Hearth Uncovered

Lower Merion Historical Society Milestones - 1 April 2009

Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd.

Luxury Home Quarterly - 1 April 2011

Mod Men

Main Line - 1 October 2009

A Celebration of Preservation

Main Line Suburban Life
 - 1 September 2010

Custom Cozy

Main Line Today - 1 December 2003

Peeling Back the Layers

Main Line Today - 1 December 2003

Country Living

Main Line Today - 25 January 2011

A Newtown Square Home with German Inspiration

Main Line Today - 5 February 2016

Handmade Marvel

Main Line Today - 1 December 2006

Homage to Okie

Main Line Today - 14 January 2009

Artsy Elegance

Main Line Today - 1 June 2008

Element of Surprise

Main Line Today - 22 January 2010

Going to The Whip

Main Line Today - 1 March 2008

101 Reasons to Love the Main Line and Western Suburbs

Main Line Today Magazine - 1 March 2015

Music Recording, Down on the Farm

Mix - 1 August 2002

The New Hampshire House

Montco Homes, Gardens, & Lifestyle - 1 November 2016

Take a Tour of the Lenfest Center…

Natural Lands Spring/Summer 2013 - 1 June 2013

Chester Co. Hobbit House Belongs to Lifelong Tolkien Fan

NBC 10 Philadelphia - 14 December 2012

Okie Inspired

New Old House - 1 April 2009

Starry Night Farm

New Old House - 1 January 2008

Small Comfort

Period Homes - 1 July 2007

Built to Last

Period Homes - 1 January 2007

Pure and Simple

Period Homes - 1 November 2009

Fluid Forms

Period Homes - 1 September 2006

Equestrian Lifestyle

Period Homes - 1 May 2013

Palladio Through the Years

Period Homes - 1 January 2011

A Place in the Sun

Period Homes
 - 1 March 2006

Stable R&R

Period Homes
 - 1 July 2005

Great Expectations

Philadelphia - 1 June 2009

Making New Look Old

Philadelphia Business Journal - 8 June 2007

Finding an Architect

Philadelphia Home & Garden - 1 January 2007

Cool Rooms

Philadelphia Home & Garden 
 - 1 October 2003

Safe Harbor

Philadelphia Home & Garden 
 - 1 June 2006

Born to Love Barns

Philadelphia Inquirer - 24 June 2011

Come Along To See Their Party Barns

Philadelphia Inquirer - 24 May 2014

A Newfangled, Old-Fashioned Mash Up

Philadelphia Inquirer - 6 July 2013

Decorator unleashes the potential of her own home

Philadelphia Inquirer - 24 July 2011

Jawdropper of the Week: Nirvana in Devon for $8M

Philadelphia Magazine - 9 February 2017

The Stunning New Farmhouse on Historic Ardrossan Estate


Back to the barn

Philadelphia Style - 1 November 2007

Architectural Portfolio "Outstanding Designs"

Press Release - 1 November 2008

Archer & Buchanan’s Land Preserve Wins Design Award

Press Release - 23 September 2013

Christian Activities Building

Press Release - 1 May 2009

Archer & Buchanan Student Activities Center Opens

Press Release - 1 October 2012

Wister Center Wins GOLD

Press Release - 1 November 2010

Archer & Buchanan Projects Win National Awards

Press Release - 1 November 2013

Archer & Buchanan Names New Senior Associate

Press Release - 1 August 2012

Archer & Buchanan Bring on New Principal

Press Release - 1 June 2012

New Life for Water Works Building

Press Release - 1 November 2011

Archer & Buchanan Receives Best of Houzz 2014 Award

Press Release - 4 February 2014

Archer & Buchanan Receives 2014 Palladio Award

Press Release - 10 March 2014

Archer & Buchanan Architecture Wins First Outstanding Firm Award

Society of American Registered Architects, Pennsylvania Council honors firm and new project - 30 November 2015

Remaking History

Suburban Life - 1 March 2012

Big Building Projects at Grove City College

The Business Journal - 9 February 2011

Down on the Farm

The Hunt - 1 April 2008

The Custom Home - Five Trends to Watch

The Hunt - 1 December 2012

The Custom Home: Five Trends to Watch

The Hunt Magazine - 1 December 2013

Hillandale Farm Provides an Oasis for Empty Nesters

The Hunt Magazine - 12 August 2016

Lenfest Center Opens at the ChesLen Preserve

The Hunt Magazine - 22 July 2013

Modernizing an 18th Century Farmhouse

The Hunt Magazine - 20 June 2017

A Barn For all Reasons-- Especially Parties

The Hunt Magazine - 4 May 2016

Hillandale Farm Provides an Oasis for Empty Nesters

The Hunt Magazine - 12 August 2016

Giving Antique Objects a Second Chance

The Hunt Magazine - 19 January 2017

The Wister Education Center and Greenhouse

The Journal of Green Building - 1 April 2010

Pet Projects

The Philadelphia Inquirer - 11 December 2015

A 'modest proposal' could save Eastern's log cabin

The Suburban and Wayne Times - 13 March 2008

Stars Align to Spotlight Preserve’s Latest Addition

The Unionville Times - 18 June 2013

Complementing History

Traditional Building Magazine - 23 June 2014

Planting Ideas

Traditional Building
 - 1 October 2010

All-Around Adaption

Untacked Magazine - 4 May 2015

Happy Days

Veranda - 1 January 2013

Loading tweets...