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Urban Wood Utilization in Connecticut: Wood Chips in Support of Environmental Efforts and Education at the Hotchkiss School

As part of their Environmental Initiative, the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT, has replaced their old, oil-burning heating system with their new Biomass Heating Facility. The new biomass incinerator combusts local wood chips, obtained from sustainably managed forests. The facility meets the heating needs for the school’s 85 buildings and more than 600 residents. Through the use of wood chips for heat, the school has saved about $800,000 in heating costs and slashed its carbon footprint between 35% and 45%.

The Hotchkiss School Woodchip Central Facility
The Hotchkiss School Wood Chip Central Heating Facility.

The 5,400 tons of wood chips come from local sawmills. These wood chips come from trees that are being harvested for the production of lumber and veneer. The school also includes wood coming from the removal of invasive species and from hazardous, diseased or defective trees.

Wood chip bunker at The Biomass Heating Facility, The Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, CT
The wood chip bunker.

Wood chip transporting ramp at The Hotchkiss School Biomass Heating Facility 
The chip conveyor.

The two high efficiency boilers create steam that heats the campus. They are both more efficient and produce fewer emissions than the previous system. The waste ash that is produced is collected and used as a fertilizer at the school’s farm. These features are helping the school to achieve its goal of zero carbon emission by 2020.

The biomass facility building was constructed with recycled materials and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood. The undulating roof mimics the surrounding foothills and is a 'green roof', planted with sedum so that the runoff from rainfall is filtered by the plants before entering the nearby wetlands.

Ash auger at the Biomass Heating Facility, The Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, CT
The ash precipitator. Waste ash is used as fertilizer at the school’s farm.

This initiative has an important role in the school’s educational program. The facility includes a state-of-the-art classroom where students and community groups can learn about renewable energy.

The Biomass Facility at the Hotchkiss School is the winner of the 2013 Alexion Award of Excellence from the Connecticut Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and has received LEED Silver Certification.

Green roof at The Hotchkiss School Biomass Heating Facility
Green roof in winter planted with sedum.

Wheat board panels used in the walls of The Hotchkiss School Biomass Heating Facility

Finish wood species of railing in The Hotchkiss School Biomass Heating facility

Rain garden at The Hotchkiss School Biomass Heating Facility

Bioswale at The Hotchkiss School Biomass Heating Facility

Green features include (from top down)

  • wheat boards in the walls
  • finished wood from native species for railing
  • a rain garden and
  • a bioswale. 

Bioswale: Bioswales are vegetated, mulched, or xeriscaped channels that provide treatment and retention as they move stormwater from one place to another. Vegetated swales slow, infiltrate, and filter stormwater flows.

Green roof: Green roofs are covered with growing media and vegetation that enable rainfall infiltration and evapotranspiration of stored water.

Rain garden: Rain gardens are shallow, vegetated basins that collect and absorb runoff from rooftops, sidewalks, and streets. Rain gardens mimic natural hydrology by infiltrating and evapotranspiring runoff.

Wheat board: An ecologically friendly type of board made of recycled wheat chaff. Wheat board is generally produced with alternative particle binder that uses no formaldehyde, creating an emission-free board.


The Hotchkiss School Environmental Initiatives - Green Energy

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - What Is Green Infrastructure?

Urban Wood Utilization - Introduction and Table of Contents

Content last updated October 2019