Carbon Positive Building

The Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies is the first Net-Zero Energy Verified building by the New Buildings Institute.

Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies, Oberlin College,
Oberlin, Ohio

Described by the New York Times as “the most remarkable of a new generation of college buildings,” the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College operates on three fundamental principles of nature: eliminate the concept of waste, rely on natural energy flows and respect diversity. The Center was the first commercial building to be Verified Zero Energy by the New Buildings Institute.

The building features a 45 kw roof-mounted photovoltaic array installed during the original construction, as well as a 100 kw array installed over the parking lot in 2006. This addition led to the site becoming a net energy exporter, producing 30 percent more energy than it needs to operate and sharing this excess energy with the community. An integration of natural energy flows and the building’s energy needs, its use as a teaching and public space, and the desire to blur the distinction between indoors and out inspires the Center’s disposition.


Oberlin College


Classrooms, offices, atrium, & auditorium


13,600 square feet


Completed January 2001


William McDonough + Partners, Design architect
Andropogon Associates, Landscape architect
Lev Zetlin Associates, MEP / Structural engineers
Loisos + Ubbelohde, Daylighting and energy consultants
Living Technologies, Wastewater consultant
Steven Winters Associates, Building systems consultants
CT Consultants, Civil engineer
Mosser Construction, Contractor

Awards + Certifications

AIA Committee on the Environment Top Ten Green Buildings, 2002
Build America Award, 2001
Green Building Challenge Award Winner, 2000
Build Ohio Award, 2000
AIA Committee on Architecture for Education, Honor Award 1999
The Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award, 1999
U.S. Department of Energy, One of 30 Milestone Buildings of the 20th Century