Sustainability at Berkshire
Berkshire is a leader among independent schools in advancing the principles of sustainability, with a culture of conservation and environmental responsibility ingrained across campus and throughout all programs.
The most noteworthy aspect of Berkshire’s greening is that it’s the students who are leading the initiatives. Students in the Sustainability class have been the drivers—and the facilitators—of nearly all new sustainability programs on campus. They conduct background research, perform risk analysis, develop proposals, and present their findings and ideas to the faculty. One student initiative: the eight-acre, two-megawatt solar field with 8,332 photovoltaic solar panels is one of the largest solar fields of any school or college in New England. In the summer of 2016, Berkshire made a significant long-term financial commitment to a new solar field in Bolton, Mass. With this further investment in renewable energy, it allows the School to reach 100% of its electric energy needs through renewable sources.
Our students’ commitment to creating new ideas for sustainability initiatives positions Berkshire School as a leader in science and technology education.
- Bellas/Dixon Math and Science Center
- Solar Array
- Electric Car Charging Station
- Sustainability Class
- Light Bulbs
- Water Dispensaries
The walls and roof of the Bellas/Dixon Math and Science Center are heavily insulated to minimize heat loss or gain. The curtain wall windows use three layer insulated glass, while the roof insulation is 12-inches thick. The landscape around the building contains only native species, so irrigation is not needed. The building's concrete floor has small tubes installed in the middle of the assembly, allowing a mechanical system to evenly and efficiently distribute heat throughout the space. Toilets in the building's restrooms use less water for flushing than standard fixtures, reducing water consumption, while occupancy sensors in throughout the building regulate light. Bellas/Dixon is also LEED certified which is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement.
Berkshire School's two-megawatt, eight-acre solar field is located on East Campus and went live in January 2012.
The project, part of an energy master plan developed by sustainability students and presented to the school’s trustees in the fall of 2011, was at the time the largest solar installation in the state of Massachusetts and the largest operating solar facility of its kind at any private secondary school in the U.S
Since connected with National Grid, the local utility, the solar field generates over 2,300 megawatt hours of clean electrical power its first year, or up to 40-percent of the school’s electricity needs. The privately-financed project features two different solar devices; fixed-tilt photovoltaic (PV) panels and single-axis tracking PV panels with room to add other solar demo-technologies in the future.
According to PowerPlay Solar (project developer), each year Berkshire’s solar field will remove nearly 2,650,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, 1,650 pounds of nitrogen oxide, and 4,400 pounds of sulfur dioxide from the atmosphere—or the equivalent use of 1.5 million pounds of coal annually. The project will also feature an energy investigations laboratory allowing students to analyze different solar technologies and monitor the output of the solar field per school building in terms of kilowatt hours of energy production, and pounds of carbon savings.
In the spring of 2015, Berkshire's Sustainability class installed an electric car charging station outside of the Jackman L. Stewart Athletic Center. Use of the charging station is expected to increase as the popularity of electric cars grows (at the time of installation, at least 10 Berkshire families were driving an electric vehicle). The closest public charging station is in Lakeville, CT (approximately fifteen miles away).
Students who take Berkshire’s sustainability class are committed to making the School more environmentally sustainable. Students work directly with the day-to-day operations of the physical plant to support effective and ethical decision-making in sustainability, and develop steps toward implementing the School’s sustainability plan. Students develop and construct major research projects, write position papers, and make formal presentations to different constituencies of the Berkshire community.
In the fall of 2016, Berkshire invested $908,000 into replacing all campus light bulbs with energy efficient LED lighting. The School's energy consumption decreased by 13-percent following the completion of this project. This energy project goes hand and hand with the energy standards that our new buildings are being held to and is yet another step towards being a carbon neutral campus.
Berkshire's commitment to sustainability includes the reduction of water bottles around campus. To meet that commitment, several water dispensaries have been installed around campus which encourage the use of reusable water bottles. The dispensaries can be found in Godman and Buck dormitories, the Student Center, Soffer Athletic Center and the Bellas/Dixon Math and Science Center.
Berkshire uses a conceptual model to present sustainability as the pursuit toward three interrelated objectives: environmental integrity, economic justice, and social equity. In this definition, students, faculty and staff are encouraged to begin thinking about sustainability from any of these three perspectives. In addition, the school has a Director of Sustainability and a sustainability committee tasked by the administration to establish sustainable principles and practices that enhance the positive transformation of the campus community through the following goals:
Education/Administration- Promote education and research on social, economic, and environmental sustainability by building community, student, faculty, and staff awareness.
Energy- Create a net zero Green House Gas emissions (GHG) campus through energy efficiency, conservation, on-site generation and strategic procurement of clean and renewable energy.
Food- Create a local and organic closed loop food system by observing sustainability criteria for all food purchasing, preparation and service, cleaning, waste disposal, and purchase of equipment and supplies.
Land Use- Protect and maintain the natural campus environment through restoration, preservation, and education while enhancing the campus as a classroom.
Procurement/Disposal- Through efficient procurement strategies, processes, and systems, organize the acquisition and responsible use of resources in a manner that supports a “triple bottom line" of economy, society, and environment. Reduce and ultimately eliminate waste streams on campus with the ultimate goal of a net zero waste campus through implementation of “cradle to cradle" processes and practices.
2015 Massachusetts Electric Vehicle Investment Program Grant, recipient for an electric car charging station2013 Named a Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education (One of just 64 schools to receive this distinction)
2011 The Sustainable Endowments Institute Billion Dollar Green Challenge, participant (Berkshire School was the only secondary school participant in the country.)
2011 Keep America Beautiful Recycle Bowl, Massachusetts champion
2010 DoSomething.org Community Garden Grant, recipient
2010 Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation Green Your Pastures Fund Grant, recipient
2009 DoSomething.org Increase Your Green Competition, winner2008 Green Cup Challenge, 1st place winner