William Maclay - Vermont Architects and Planners
Choices in Sustainability
George D. Aiken Center - Burlington, VT


The “Greening of Aiken” project is a model, “deep energy retrofit” on the University of Vermont campus. It demonstrates that renovation can out-perform new construction, while meeting a tight budget. This project sets an example for low energy-consuming design and construction, responsible use of natural resources, and healthy learning and work environments.

After winning a national design competition, Maclay Architects worked with the university and all stakeholders through a collaborative design process rooted in the educational mission, goals, and desires of the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. We included the students in the building design process by facilitating charrettes, teaching classes and giving lectures.

Aiken_Stair_6    Aiken_Sol_7

The vision of the project was to design a living building, a model for energy retrofits and a “beacon” for the UVM campus and the broader community beyond. The building integrates sustainable design principles including building envelope enhancement, materials selection, mechanical systems optimization, deferred maintenance improvements and simplified building operation. The building has received LEED Platinum certification, though the environmental concepts in this approach go beyond LEED.


A solarium space on the south side of the building encourages social interaction and a connection to nature. Operable windows provide views to the campus, daylight and natural ventilation. Low rock benches surround ponds and planters filled with fish and tropical foliage. An adjacent “eco-machine” uses plants to treat wastewater, while the roof houses gardens for research and demonstration.

Aiken_Floor_5 Aiken_Rock_4

Recognizing the importance of budget to the university, and understanding their project goals, we performed an “options analysis” study to achieve alignment between the project requirements and the budget. This included the detailed investigation, analysis and costing of masonry wall assemblies. By providing choices with associated costs to UVM, the project scope met the budget while achieving high energy goals. The renewed and expanded Aiken Center will provide needed space with a reduced ecological footprint.

University of Vermont webpage: The Greening of Aiken