In typical Oberlin fashion, David Orr initiated the design process by offering students the opportunity to participate in a seminar focused on how a new or renovated facility could best serve the needs of Oberlin’s growing Environmental Studies program.

The first seminar took place in 1992, followed by subsequent classes which worked to draft design goals and research alternative, sustainable technologies.  Students took trips across the country to further examine specific systems and products the new building might incorporate. Some of these destinations included Living Technologies in Burlington, VT to consider John Todd's Living Machine, and forests in the Pacific Northwest to investigate potential suppliers of sustainably managed wood.

Input was sought from leading thinkers in green building and environmental technologies, students across campus, faculty, and community members to further refine project goals; a total of 13 public design input sessions were held.