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Leopold Legacy Center

Baraboo, Wisconsin

By Jessica Boehland

The Aldo Leopold foundation’s new Legacy Center (GreenSource, April 2008, page 80) is located in rural Wisconsin, not far from where the influential conservationist reforested a piece of worn-out farmland and wrote A Sand County Almanac. The 12,000-square-foot project includes three buildings organized around a central courtyard. The main building houses offices and meeting spaces in addition to a public library and an exhibit gallery. Smaller buildings offer room for workshops and a lecture hall. For Kubala Washatko Architects, it was a dream project. “We had a beautiful site and a client that completely got it,” says the project manager, Joel Krueger. “Our job was to allow this building to unfold from this amazing place.”

Leopold Legacy Center
Photo © Mark Heffron
Leopold Legacy Center, Baraboo, Wisconsin

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LOCATION: Baraboo, Wisconsin (Wisconsin River watershed)
GROSS SQUARE FOOTAGE: 11,900 ft2 (1,100 m2)
COST: $4 million
COMPLETED: April 2007
ANNUAL PURCHASED ENERGY USE (BASED ON SIMULATION): -3 kBtu/ft2 (-36 MJ/m2), 109 percent reduction from base case
PROGRAM: Offices, meeting rooms, exhibit area, workshops

OWNER: The Aldo Leopold Foundation
ARCHITECT: The Kubala Washatko Architects
LANDSCAPE: Misa Inoue and Marcy Huffaker
ENGINEERS: Matrix Mechanical Solutions (MEP), Powrtek (electrical), Komp/Gilomen (structural), Triad (controls)
ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANT: Helio Design, Thermal Energy Systems Specialists, Supersymmetry USA
GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Oscar J. Boldt Construction


The first thing most people notice about the Legacy Center is its extensive use of wood. The project features 90,000 board feet of lumber from trees originally planted by Leopold and his family. The foundation certified its forestry practices to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards before it harvested the lumber. As a result, 78 percent of all wood used in the project is FSC-certified.

To minimize energy use, the project employs high levels of insulation, extensive daylighting, a ground-source heating-and-cooling system, and a ventilation system that uses earth tubes to temper incoming air. Thanks to these and other strategies, the project team anticipated the buildings would use 70 percent less energy than a similar project built to code. A 39.6-Kw photovoltaic system on the roof of the main building produces more than enough electricity to meet the complex’s needs. Combined with on-site carbon sequestration, this excess electricity generation offsets all carbon emissions resulting from both the operations of the buildings and the employees’ commuting and business travel.

The project team started with the understanding that it would use the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system as a guide but not pursue certification. During design development, though, Krueger realized the project was within Platinum range, and the team decided to make it official. The Legacy Center earned 61 points, the highest rating to date, and became the first project to earn a LEED innovation point for carbon-neutral operations.

“With public education as an important mission of this project, the wide range of design strategies and technologies are made visible to the users of the building, so they could serve as precedents either individually or in their entirety.”





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This article appeared in the July 2008 print issue of GreenSource Magazine

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