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Margaret A Cargill Living Building at Wolf Ridge

Wolf Ridge Achieves

Living Building Certification

The world’s most rigorous standard for green buildings

We’ve long championed sustainable practices in our facilities.

From our early beginning leasing land on the site of a former Job Corps facility in Isabella, Minnesota, to the decision to move to our current site in Finland, Minnesota in 1988, we’ve held the belief that buildings should give back more than they take.

Today our campus includes a 10 kW wind turbine, 18.5 kW photovoltaic array, solar thermal domestic hot water heating, and biomass space heating, with 85% of our facilities heated with biomass renewable energy.

Our decision to upgrade our campus buildings to meet Living Building Challenge standards, a green building certification program that defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today, is based on our belief that our buildings should serve as a teaching tool for sustainable living and construction. 

Environmental Learning Center sign in wildflower field

In 2017, we completed our first living building project—the Lakeview Student Lodge.

The 30-bed Lakeview dormitory houses our graduate student naturalists during the school year. Every aspect of the Lakeview Student Lodge is environmentally friendly.

A solar water system provides all of the building’s hot water. A solar photovoltaic array supplies all its electricity. Sophisticated exhaust and passive cooling systems reduce climate control loads. Room sensors automatically shut off lights when they’re not needed. Building materials and fixtures were locally sourced whenever possible.

It was a trial run for future Wolf Ridge construction projects that will meet all aspects of the Living Building Challenge, including the Margaret A. Cargill Lodge, a complete renovation of a 1980s student dormitory.

In 2022, our renovation of the old West Dorm received full living building certification—the world’s most rigorous standard for green buildings

The Margaret A. Cargill (MAC) Lodge renovation of the old West Dorm was the first renovation project in the world to receive full Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification by the International Living Future Institute.

To achieve this rigorous standard, the 22,000 square-foot dormitory has proved its ability to achieve Net Positive Energy and Net Positive Water over a 12-month period, generating more energy than it consumes.

The MAC Lodge is the 30th Living Building worldwide to receive this certification, and the 1st in the upper Midwest region (Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota). It is located in the coldest design climate so far to achieve LBC certification.

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Read ILFI Case Study

Photo Credit: HGA & Chad Holder

What does a living building look like?

Imagine a building designed and constructed to function as elegantly and efficiently as a flower: a building informed by its bioregion’s characteristics, that generates all of its own energy with renewable resources, captures and treats all of its water, and operates efficiently and for maximum beauty.

Living Building Challenge projects come in all shapes and sizes and consist of both new construction and renovation projects—including historic preservation. They go above and beyond LEED certification, with compliance based on actual, rather than modeled or anticipated, performance, making LBC the world’s most rigorous standard for green buildings.

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To achieve full living building certification, Wolf Ridge completed all seven petals & twenty imperatives.

To be certified under the Living Building Challenge, ambitious performance requirements called Petals must be met over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy and operations. Petals are subdivided into a total of twenty Imperatives, each of which focuses on a specific sphere of influence

  1. Place Limits to Growth, Urban Agriculture, Habitat Exchange & Human-Powered Living
  2. Water Net Positive Water
  3. Energy Net Positive Energy
  4. Materials Red List, Embodied Carbon Footprint, Responsible Industry, Living Economy Sourcing & Net Positive Waste
  5. Equity Human School + Humane Places, Universal Access to Nature + Place, Equitable Investment & JUST Organizations
  6. Health + Happiness Civilized Environment, Healthy Interior Environment & Biophilic Environment
  7. Beauty Beauty + Spirit & Inspiration + Education

Download LBC Standards

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The first renovated 'living building' in the world is here in MN

Minnesota Public Radio – Minnesota Now

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HGA’s overhaul at MN's Wolf Ridge ELC is the first renovated Living Building

The Architect's Newspaper

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Wolf Ridge ELC Sets a New Global Standard in Sustainable Design

AIA Minnesota

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