The design process began in 1992 when Professor Orr taught a year-long "Ecological Design" course, focusing on plans for a new environmental studies center. The resulting proposal evolved through 1998, with the assistance of students, faculty, and community members: over a dozen public charrettes were held to solicit opinions and ideas. As plans for the building progressed, students researched specific products and systems for consideration by the design team.
The design team was selected for their expertise in education, design, renewable energy, and current building technologies. Members of the team worked closely to create integrated systems.
The construction period began in January of 1999 and occupants moved into the building in January of 2000. The construction fill was used as an earth berm to insulate the north facing first floor wall of the facility.
Students and community volunteers have installed and maintained the landscape under the direction of Professor David Benzing of the Department of Biology. The Living Machine wastewater treatment facility is also maintained primarily by students. An extensive data monitoring system allows the center's staff and Oberlin college maintenance staff to track the performance of various systems in the building thereby allowing them to spot and diagnose problems.
Detailed monitoring of building systems has occurred since the building opened for classes in January 2000. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has been working closely with the Oberlin faculty, staff, and students to study and improve the Lewis Center's energy performance.
A variety of courses both within and outside the Environmental Studies program are taught in the Center's classrooms and auditorium. The building is also used regularly for guest lectures, presentations, banquets, student organization meetings, Quaker meetings, informal gatherings, and study space. Occupancy estimate assumes three classrooms at 25 students for 5 hours per weekday plus use of offices, resource center, auditorium and atrium. Summer use is usually restricted to 10 people for 40 hours per week.
"Oberlin College Lewis Center." Green Building Brain. Web. 26 Aug. 2010.