Location Gladstone, NJ
Size 20,000 ft²
Completed 2013 (expected)
Cost $7 million
Program Classrooms, cafeteria, gymnasium


Architect Farewell Architects
Client The Willow School
Envelope Consultant Maclay Architects
MEP Engineer Joseph R. Loring & Associates
Structural Engineer Christie Engineering
Civil Engineer Apgar and Associates
Landscape Design Back to Nature
Integrative Design Integrative Design Collaborative
LEED/Living Building Challenge Consultant Sustainable Growth Technologies


Certification LEED Platinum (expected), Living Building Challenge (expected)
Energy Net-zero energy target
Envelope R-20 below-grade insulation, R-40 walls, R-60 roof, R-5 triple-glazed windows
Roof Various elevations slope inward for rainwater collection
Water Potable water consumption reduced by 375,000 gallons per year
Landscape Organic waste recycled, used as compost for vegetable gardens and fruit trees

This article is part of gb&d‘s Green Typologies series The Kids Are Alright: Five innovative schools.

In modern education, there’s a lot of talk about value, but the idea of virtue has been almost entirely lost—except at the small, K-8 Willow School in Gladstone, New Jersey, is aiming to restore virtue by not only instilling it in the curriculum, but communicating it through the campus itself. The school’s newest building, the Health, Wellness, and Nutrition Building, is a 20,000-square-foot example of this idea—the structure was designed by Farewell Architects to meet Living Building Challenge standards, achieve LEED Platinum certification, and generate all its own energy.

“If we’re going to have a school where we talk about what it means to have an ethical relationship with another human being, we need to have an ethical relationship with nature,” says Mark Biedron, who founded the school in 2003 with his wife Gretchen. “That’s the light bulb that went off, and we knew we needed to build green buildings.”

Master-planning on the 34-acre site started in 2001 when the Willow School teamed with Farewell Architects to begin siting the school. “By nature, this has been a very collaborative, community process,” says Michael Farewell, principal at Farewell Architects. “It has been very complementary of the program of the school.”

The wellness building is part of the third phase of the master plan, and the building both complements and improves upon the sustainable precedents set by two previous buildings—the first achieved LEED Gold and the second Platinum. “Because this building is aiming for the next level with the Living Building Challenge, it’s being quite bold in a lot of its design choices,” Farewell says. “The site is on the edge of the New Jersey highlands, which has a ridge and valley structure, and this building’s massing echoes that idea.”

It’s a multiuse building with a program for classrooms, a cafeteria and kitchen, gymnasium space, and correspondent support spaces. A circulation spine running through the one-story building links the spaces, and a depression in the center of the building, mirroring the topography of the highlands, collects water from the roof that is then used for irrigation and toilet functions. In addition to other requisite and high-caliber sustainable features—east/west-axis, daylighting, and a photovoltaic array—the building also has an extremely efficient envelope with R-20 below-grade insulation, R-40 walls, an R-60 roof, and R-5 triple-glazed windows.

“The question now is, how do you make a building that actually makes the environment better for being there?” Biedron says. “We’re trying to change the model; the built environment model, the curricular model—and, really, the way we think, as human beings.” That’s virtue.

This article is part of gb&d‘s Green Typologies series, which in each issue explores a single type of building. For more of our most recent collection, The Kids Are Alright: Five innovative schools, choose from the list below:

  • Life Sciences: The Bertschi School by KMD Architects
  • Plant Power: The Hotchkiss School by Centerbrook Architects and Planners
  • Solar Prowess: Green Dot Animo Leadership School by Brooks + Scarpa Architects
  • Alternative Reuse: The Met High School by Stafford King Wiese Architects