Kroon Hall Wins International Prize, Building of Year Award

If the awards that Kroon Hall has racked up in the 18 months since it was completed are any indication, the new home of Yale’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (FES) may someday have a prominent place in the history books about green architecture.

Its most recent honor — an International Design Award from the Royal Institute of British Architects — brings to 14 the number of public accolades Yale’s greenest building has received since opening in January 2009.

The barn-shaped structure on Science Hill has won the highest honors from architectural and design associations and publications, including being named “Building of the Year” in May by the British weekly magazine Architects’ Journal. Bloggers, critics and journalists writing for such diverse publications as the Chronicle of Higher Education, Architectural Review and Metropolis have been unanimous in praising the building as a feat of sustainable engineering.

Designed by the London-based firm Hopkins Architects, in collaboration with Centerbrook Architects and Planners and Atelier Ten, the 58,200-square-foot building boasts such sustainable features as solar photovoltaic panels, a geothermal heating and cooling system, daylight harvesting, energy recovering ventilation, a rainwater collection and cleansing pond, a green roof, and recycled, local and sustainable building materials. Almost 80% of the timber used in its construction is Forest Stewardship Council-certified, and half the wood in the interior paneling was grown in a Yale-owned forest.

The $33.5 million building achieved the highest rating — platinum — in the green-building certification program Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The architects and engineers who collaborated on the building aimed at earning 59 sustainability points, seven more than required to earn the top rating.

Kroon has been heralded both for its innovation and for serving as a guidepost for other academic institutions in their sustainability efforts. In naming Kroon one of the Top 10 Green Projects of 2009, the American Institute of Architects/Committee on the Environment cited the ambitions the architects and Yale had for this project from the outset: “It had to function not simply as a sustainable overlay that offset unsustainable practices in people’s everyday lives but as something that inspired and encouraged people to alter their lives and become more sustainable citizens.”

Gordon Geballe, associate dean of alumni and student affairs at FES, echoes this sentiment. Building a “Cathedral of Green” to house Yale’s environment school has long been a dream of Geballe’s, and he helped to shape that vision into reality with former FES Dean Gus Speth and Yale colleagues Stephen Kellert and Alan Brewster.

“We’re ecstatic about the visibility all this attention gives Kroon,” says Geballe, describing the building as a “physical and moral compass” for others who would follow the University’s example.

“Yale is a teaching institution with a commitment to environmental leadership,” says Geballe, who sees Kroon’s celebrity as a way to reinforce the University’s role as an international classroom for sustainable design.

“Everything that went into the building is easily available,” he notes. “Anyone can buy all the parts they need to build their own ‘Kroon.’ All one needs to do is see how it’s done here.”

Yale will also learn from its greenest building, contends Geballe. “We’re working hard to make sure that the building keeps running as it was designed to run,” he says, noting that fine-tuning even the best design is a learning experience.

— By Dorie Baker

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Dorie Baker:, 203-432-1345