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Aldo Leopold Legacy Center

>Land Use
>Indoor Environment
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Aldo Leopold Legacy Center

The Legacy Center was envisioned as a small complex of structures organized around a central courtyard, as shown in this photo. The design was intended to reduce the scale of the buildings on the site.
Photo credit: The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc./Mark F. Heffron


  • Location: Baraboo, WI
  • Climate Region: 6A: Cold - Humid
  • Building type(s): Interpretive Center, Commercial office
  • New construction
  • 11,900 ft2 (1,100 m2)
  • Project scope: 3 1-story buildings
  • Rural setting
  • Completed April 2007
  • Rating: U.S. Green Building Council LEED-NC, v.2/v.2.1--Level: Platinum (61 points)
    Rating: Zero Energy Building

Published in 1949 as the finale to A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold's "Land Ethic" set the stage for the modern conservation movement. Leopold's philosophy included the belief that the idea of community should be enlarged to include, in his words, "collectively: the land." This includes nonhuman elements such as soils, waters, plants, and animals.

The headquarters for the Aldo Leopold Foundation, the Legacy Center includes office and meeting spaces, an interpretive hall, an archive, and a workshop organized around a central courtyard. Built where Leopold died fighting a brush fire in 1948, the Legacy Center also provides a trailhead to the original Leopold Shack.

Zero Energy Building

The Aldo Leopold Legacy Center is a carbon-neutral, net zero energy building (ZEB). Because of the efficient building techniques used, the Legacy Center requires very little energy. The Legacy Center’s 39.6-kW rooftop photovoltaic (PV) array produces roughly 10% more than the energy needed to operate the building over the course of a year. Specifically, the Legacy Center qualifies as a:

  • Site ZEB: Building produces at least as much energy as it uses in a year, when accounted for at the site. The Aldo Leopold Legacy Center produces all of its needed electricity through on-site PV. It does burn wood in the winter for heat, but this resource is harvested locally and is a renewable resource used on-site.
  • Source ZEB: Building produces at least as much energy as it uses in a year, when accounted for at the source. The Legacy Center is considered a source ZEB because the energy generated on-site through PV and wood is greater than the energy used when accounted for at the source.
  • Emissions (carbon) ZEB: Building produces at least as much emissions-free renewable energy as it uses from emission-producing energy sources annually. The excess renewable energy the Legacy Center produces, along with on-site carbon sequestration through its forested land, offsets the carbon emissions resulting from the project's operations.

Environmental Aspects

The Foundation located the project on a previously disturbed site, which it is restoring to native ecosystems. The project team used crushed gravel in place of blacktop or concrete paving, increasing rainwater infiltration and blending the developed areas into the surrounding landscape.

The native landscaping requires no irrigation. Waterless urinals, dual-flush toilets, and efficient faucets reduce water consumption by 65%. An on-site well provides potable water, and an existing septic system treats wastewater.

Thinning the Leopold forests improved forest health while providing 90,000 board feet of wood for use in the project. More than 75% of all wood used in the project was certified to Forest Stewardship Council standards, and 60% of all materials were manufactured within 500 miles of the project site.

The Legacy Center was designed to use 70% less energy than a comparable conventional building. A 39.6-kW rooftop photovoltaic array produces more than 110% of the project's annual electricity needs. This excess renewable energy, along with on-site carbon sequestration, offsets the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the project's operations.

Daylighting eliminates the need for electric lighting during most of the day. Ground-source heat pumps connected to a radiant slab provide heating and cooling, and an earth-tube system provides tempered fresh air.

Owner & Occupancy

  • Owned and occupied by The Aldo Leopold Foundation, Inc., Corporation, nonprofit
  • Typically occupied by 12 people, 40 hours per person per week; and 85 visitors per week, 5 hours per visitor per week


Integrated team, Green framework, Simulation, Green specifications, Commissioning, Performance measurement and verification, Operations and maintenance, Wildlife habitat, Indigenous vegetation, Efficient fixtures and appliances, Drought-tolerant landscaping, Massing and orientation, Insulation levels, Glazing, Airtightness, Passive solar, HVAC, Lighting control and daylight harvesting, Efficient lighting, On-site renewable electricity, Durability, Benign materials, Salvaged materials, Recycled materials, Local materials, Certified wood, C&D waste management, Occupant recycling, Connection to outdoors, Daylighting, Natural ventilation, Ventilation effectiveness, Moisture control, Low-emitting materials

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