Millbrook School’s new West Dorm—a green building by design

A drone's eye view of the Millbrook School campus

November 6, 2014

West Hall, the most recent phase of the Millbrook School’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2020, opened for students in September after only one year of construction. West Hall is the first dormitory designed specifically to house female students—44 boarders and 24 day students as well as 7 faculty members. 

Like Millbrook’s Math and Sciences Center—one of the first 30 Gold LEED–certified buildings in New York—West Dorm was designed to meet the gold level of LEED certification (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) a designation awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. The pending LEED certification process will involve reviews in six categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy efficiency, efficient use of resources, indoor environmental quality and innovative design. 

Although West Hall is in keeping with the traditional Georgian style of the Millbrook campus, 16 geothermal wells, 490 feet deep, provide heating and cooling with little need for fossil fuels. Passive house standards for insulation, recycled materials, bamboo floors, and local sourcing for many of the building materials are additional features. All lighting is LED, and special attention has been paid to providing low-level night lighting for the residential halls. 

740 Headmaster Drew Casertano is leading the effort to ensure that Millbrook is carbon neural by 2020

A large amphitheater immediately outside the entrance to the building will be a gathering place for the entire student body to come together for performances, some sports, and other school events. 

“A commitment to serve as stewards of the natural world” is part of Millbrook’s original mission statement. The school’s focus on the natural world has continued to grow since the school was founded in 1931. The Trevor Zoo, which opened five years later, has always been an important part of the school, both for classes as well as for the students who sign up to care for the animals.  

738 West Dorm

Millbrook was an early member of the Green Schools Alliance. Students in the different dorms challenge each other to reduce their energy use. Through the Environmental Council, as well as in classes, students are encouraged to think of ways to lead more sustainable lives. 

When the new solar field is hooked up by Central Hudson in January, it will reduce the school’s carbon footprint by 30 percent. Renovations of the existing buildings are being studied to improve electric- and gas efficiency throughout the campus. 

This year six students who were accepted in the new advanced Independent Research science course will work during their free time either creating and conducting an original experiment or contributing to an existing experiment. Harrison Bluestone ’15 is researching the best location for a hypothetical wind turbine on campus. He will collect wind speed data at three different locations on the school grounds as well as conduct a lab investigation of the best turbine design for turbines. Haoyi Gao ’15 is researching solar energy; he will relate his findings to Millbrook’s solar field, looking at energy inputs and outputs.

According to communications director Michelle Blayney, right now is the “best time in the school’s history.” Millbrook is considered one of the best small schools in the country. It has its largest enrollment ever. So far they have raised $40 million thus far out of a total goal of their $65 million of capital campaign. As part of that $65 million, they aim to raise $25 million for the endowment. For the remaining $40 million they are raising $30 million for construction and renovation to support our Campus Master Plan, and another $10 million for our Annual Fund.

Construction of a new dining hall, sure to be another Gold LEED–certified building, will begin in the spring of 2015.