Phase II Underway

by Shannon Walz, Director of Education and Tom Berg, Capital Campaign Fundraising Co-chair

Whether it was the Jetsons, Star Wars, or Star Trek, TV and movie scenes depicting the future frequently conjured up images of flying cars, moving sidewalks, robots, and houses that made life better. While we are short of flying cars and moving sidewalks at Wolf Ridge, we now have our own glimpse of the future. We teleconference frequently, the Board recently held a video conference (and caught one of our unsuspecting members without his shirt on), have flat screen TV’s and more and more of us even have robots in our houses in the form of Amazon Echo and Google Home. After years of imagining, now that we are actually in the 21st century, what does it mean to “step into the future”?

If you have been following the story of our renovation of the West Dorm over the last couple of years, you may know that Wolf Ridge has been asking that question when it comes to buildings and our impact on the environment. We are getting our first glimpse of “stepping into the future” with the completion of the staff house and the new maintenance building this spring. Both buildings have been built to the rigorous Living Building Challenge (LBC) standards and contain LED lighting, solar power, and water and energy conservation measures that were not long ago mere futuristic dreams. At Wolf Ridge we believe, as LBC does, that “stepping into the future” means constructing buildings in which every single act of design and construction should make the world a little bit better.

As the sound of hammers and power drills gave way to big smiles on the faces of our student naturalists moving into their new home away from home, we decided we needed to share our success by having a public ribbon cutting ceremony for the staff house and maintenance building and a groundbreaking ceremony for the dorm renovation project in early June.

The march to the future is continuing at a rapid rate as the Board recently voted unanimously to proceed this spring with Phase II of our Making Waves project. This phase starts in June and includes a complete renovation of the West Dorm and putting in access to the 68 acres Wolf Ridge has at Lake Superior. The work for Phase II will be completed in early November of this year! Fundraising efforts are in high gear to raise the final money necessary to fully fund the project.

With such a tight construction schedule, we are busy with preparations here on campus. We are working with our contractor, Gardner Builders and Bullyan RV, located in Duluth, MN, to set up a cozy village of RVs near the Science Center to accommodate guests during the construction. Bullyan is making a Special Edition RV just for Wolf Ridge! The RVs will sleep 7-8 people, have a full bathroom, heat and electricity, and even have a Wolf Ridge paw print on the outside.

Throughout the course of the project we have been working with Gardner Builders to provide learning opportunities for our guests. This year we have been offering tours of the construction site for visiting adults. During Phase II we are looking at ways to engage both adults and kids in the construction process. We will be offering tours of the construction site as well as longer hands on experiences with some of the construction workers. All this is just the beginning of our educational journey. The buildings are designed to be a learning experience for the occupants from large displays in the main lobby of the dorm to individual energy monitoring displays in each room.

While we may not be zipping around in flying cars, the Jetson’s future is getting ever closer. At Wolf Ridge it really is starting to look and feel like the 21st century. Wolf Ridge is on the leading edge of sustainable building as we pursue full LBC certification for the West Dorm renovation. We are beginning to live in places in which people and buildings are restorative to the environments they occupy; where people are challenged to think about the choices they make and reduce their impact in the spaces they use. Where beauty and functionality of a building connect us to this AMAZING planet we live on. Our new buildings may not look “space age,” but they challenge the status quo and show what is possible for both humans and planet earth as we continue to step into the future.F