US (MT): Whitefish’s greenhouse project blossoms into ‘net-zero’ center

Preparations are underway for the grand opening next week of the $2.65 million Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship at Whitefish High School.

The two-story classroom building and greenhouse on the high school campus was constructed with renewable energy systems such as geothermal and solar, and building features such as triple-pane windows, with the goal to become a “net-zero energy building.” A net-zero or “zero-energy” building means that the energy consumed over the duration of a year is about equal to the renewable energy produced at the facility.

Eventually, the center will encompass gardens, an experimental forest, a native grass meadow, an orchard and a wet meadow detention pond. The center will be the site of hands-on curriculum in agriculture, energy, forestry, natural resources, entrepreneurship and sustainable practices for grades K-12. The intention is to also open it up to the community for adult education classes or lectures.

The center started out as a grassroots effort in 2014, when Freeflow Club members and students in other environmental clubs at Whitefish High School began fundraising efforts to purchase a new greenhouse for the high school to replace the one demolished during the school’s reconstruction. By 2015, the students’ $50,000 goal was surpassed when $70,000 was raised with the support of community philanthropist Rich Atkinson — but the donations and grants continued to pour in. The project evolved from purchasing a 30-by-50-foot Matterhorn-style greenhouse to an approximately 6,200-square-foot facility.

Read more at Daily Inter Lake (Hilary Matheson)

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