The main home of the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, the George D. Aiken Center opened in 1982. The building's name honors Vermont's distinguished late senator and governor.

In 2012, the School completed reconstruction on a green renovated Aiken Center, a facility with U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum status—their highest ranking. Many years ago, our Rubenstein School community envisioned a living building that allows us to have a smaller, healthier footprint and to demonstrate our collective commitment to a more sustainable world. The Aiken Center now challenges and educates RSENR and UVM communities and visitors about what it means to live within the limits of our natural world. Students played a central role in the process.

Learn about student projects on the Greening of Aiken class wiki >>

Aiken Center atrium

Each floor of the Aiken Center represents a component of our natural world, the Earth. The first floor, which houses naturally lit and comfortably ventilated classrooms, a 100-seat lecture hall, student lounge, and brick and wood-trimmed atrium, represents the red core of the Earth.

Aiken Center solarium

Spiraling up the central staircase, you emerge onto the second floor which symbolizes the Earth's surface with the lush green of forests and the deep blue of rivers running through the hallways' terrazzo flooring. The second floor is home to the Dean's Office, faculty and staff offices, laboratory style classroom, and Spatial Analysis Laboratory. A glass solarium on the south side of the building is a warm, welcoming entrance to the Aiken Center and provides casual meeting areas formed by stonewalls and tropical vegetation.

Aiken Center Eco-Machine

At the eastern end of the solarium, a window looks into large tanks of the Eco-Machine that hold communities of aquatic micro-organisms, invertebrates, and wetland plants. This living laboratory successfully treated 760,000 gallons of the building's wastewater over 5 years. As part of Phase 2 of the evolution of the Eco-Machine, faculty and students are currently researching improvements to the wastewater treatment and nutrient recovery process.

Tipping buckets for Aiken green roof

On up to the third floor, trimmed in the blues of the Earth's atmosphere, you will find faculty and staff offices, graduate student space, and conference rooms. Throughout the building, beautifully finished wood trim made from trees harvested at our Forest Stewardship Council- (FSC-) certified Jericho Research Forest links us closely to the forest. Tipping buckets, lining a third floor hallway, fill with rainwater and snowmelt from the roof to help us learn how to manage and reduce stormwater run-off.

Aiken green roof

Finally, the Aiken Center's green roof is comprised of eight small watersheds, six of which are planted with flats of vegetation. Faculty and students use the roof and its drainage water to test stormwater management strategies.

George D. Aiken Center

What Makes Aiken So Green?

Eco-MachineTM natural wastewater treatment system.

Waterless/low-flow fixtures use 50% less water than those in a similar-sized conventional building.

Green roof for testing micro-watershed strategies for stormwater managment.

High performance building envelope & windows with 62% more energy efficiency than original.

Natural ventilation and lighting.

Environmental/energy monitoring systems provide efficiency data via web.

Local, renewable, recycled, recyclable building materials & furnishings, including FSC-certified wood.

Student-funded alternative solar energy provides nearly half of electrical energy use.

LEED Platinum building rating signifies one of the greenest renovated buildings in the nation.


Aiken in the News

August 2014 Burlington Free Press article "Architect Maclay is worked up about (net) zero."

September 2013 UVM Communications story "Aiken Center Earns LEED Platinum."

September 2013 Vermont Public Radio news article "UVM Building Wins Major Environmental Honor."

September 2013 VT Digger news story "UVM’s Aiken Center Goes Platinum."

March 2013 UVM Extension Across the Fence video on the Aiken Eco-Machine.

November 2012 Burlington Free Press "I Believe" essay (PDF) by research associate Gary Hawley on the Greening of Aiken.

October 2012 UVM Communications story and slideshow on the Aiken green roof installation.

October 2012 update on the Aiken Eco-Machine by research specialist Matt Beam "Eco-Machine Ramp-Up."

More Aiken in the News