Living Certified

Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Environmental Center

Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF) is a nonprofit organization, chartered in 1954, that is based at Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center in Accokeek, Maryland. The Foundation’s mission is to provide experiences that encourage connections between people, the natural environment, farming and the cultural heritage of the Potomac River Watershed that lead to personal environmental responsibility. As part of this mission, AFF is dedicated to protecting and preserving the rural character and historic legacy of Hard Bargain Farm.

The project site is in an ecological area which dictates much of the natural features are to be preserved (forest stands, wetlands, and conservation waterways). The purpose of the project is to further the mission of the foundation by expanding its facilities to accommodate its broadening environmental stewardship educational programs to a larger number of participants. The educational activities related to the watershed and preserving natural space make up approximately 70% of the programs offered at the facility.

The Grass Building, now known as THE MORRIS AND GWENDOLYN CAFRITZ FOUNDATION ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER, is an environmental educational day-use building located at Hard Bargain Farm. This new building is the first phase of a larger facility to be known as the Potomac Watershed Study Center which is being built to replace and increase usability of the existing overnight educational center, also known as the Lodge.


Certification StatusLiving Certified
Version of LBC2.1
LocationAccokeek, MD, USA
Project Area480,031 SF
Start of OccupancyJuly 2015
Owner OccupiedYes
Occupancy TypeAssembly
Number of Occupants0


OwnerAlice Ferguson Foundation
Owner RepresentativeConsilience LLC
ArchitectRe:Vision Architecture
ContractorFacchina Construction
MechanicalInPosse Engineers
ElectricalInPosse Engineers
PlumbingInPosse Engineers
CivilCrouse Engineering
Interior DesignRe:Vision Architecture
Specialty Consultants and RolesRe:Vision Architecture – LBC Consultants, Bio-Habitats -Greywater design
Key SubcontractorsHugh Lofting Timber Framing, Amicus Green Building Center, Earnshaw Bros., Inc., EMO – Cx & Systems Training, Line Load Electrical Contractors, Mallick Mechanical


Photo Courtesy of Re:Vision Architecture


The USAD Natural Resources Conservation Soils Survey map revealed that the project was sited on “Farmland of Statewide Importance”. As the project site includes a working farm and part of the educational purpose of the building is to teach students about farming practices, the project was able to use I01-E9 Farming under the Limits to Growth Imperative.

In addition, the project site encompasses a wetlands area that is located to the southwest of the project, in which a small footbridge has been constructed to cross it. This was done to support AFF’s educational curriculum specifically called the Habitat Hike. During the approximately two-hour walk, students are led through a richly diverse terrain including a meadow, woodland, wetland, stream bank, and riverside. The objective of the hike is to allow participants to explore the variety of habitat, observe the plant and animal life found in each, and understand the concept of a watershed and how all the different parts are interrelated.


As the project’s owner is a non-profit, the team decided to use I03-E1Conservation or Parks, Option 2, and allocated part of AFF’s existing property into a new conservation easement. The land is directly adjacent to Piscataway Park which is National Park Service land. The Park is home to bald eagles, beavers, deer, foxes, ospreys, and many other species and contains large areas of wetlands as it abuts the Potomac River. The land that AFF placed into the conservation easement contains extensive wetlands and is a heavily wooded area with a number of large tree stands and includes and abuts Accokeek Creek, a small stream that empties into the wetland area.



The Potomac Watershed Study Center’s Grass Building is integrated into the larger campus’s existing well water system. Ground water is pumped to the surface from the existing well and provides potable water to all the low-flow plumbing fixtures (i.e. showers, lavatories and sinks). Flushing of toilets and urinals does not represent significant water usage, as the facility is equipped with waterless composting toilets and urinals. While a typical commercial toilet normally requires 1.6 gallons per flush, the composting toilet system only requires as much as 1 gallon of water per day to maintain moisture in the composting bin.

Domestic hot water is generated with a solar thermal heating system. Three flat plate solar collectors rest on the roof adjacent to the Solar Electric PV array. Solar energy is utilized to heat the domestic water for showers, lavatories and the kitchen sink. Once the water has been distributed and used, the waste water is collected and completes its cycle by being collected and dispersed back into the ground through a subsurface drip irrigation system.


A greywater system provides a low-energy solution to safely recharge treated greywater back to the aquifer. The core of the system is a land application subsurface drip irrigation system that slowly treats greywater through biologically active soils and plant roots in an existing meadow. Greywater is collected, settled, equalized, and filtered prior to the subsurface drip irrigation system which has been engineered to operate year-round, even through the winter and freezing temperatures. Native grasses are used within the land application field, and ultimately the system will disappear back into the natural landscape of the farm

Clivus Multrum composting toilets are used to completely eliminate blackwater, creating instead a “nutrient recycling restroom”. The toilet and urinal fixtures are waterless and are installed directly over large composters located on the floor below. Continuously operating fans keep the system odor-free. The composting process transforms human body products (urine and feces) into odor-free and safe-to-handle compost and liquid fertilizer, which are used in the landscape. Since the greywater system is also nutrient recycling (root zone irrigation), the total effect of the composting toilet/greywater system is non-polluting and beneficial to the site.


AFF’s water system is classified as a Transient Non-community Public Water System. Prior to construction, AFF facilities used conventional on-site septic systems for sanitary treatment. Early in project development, AFF consultants met with representatives of Prince George’s County Health Department and Department of Permits, Inspections and Enforcement and were told that they would not permit the use of captured rainwater, nor would they permit the use of composting toilets or alternative treatment systems and stipulated that AFF would have to install a large new conventional septic system.

With regard to the use of captured rainwater, AFF and its consultants subsequently met with Maryland Department of Environment, including the Secretary of the Department, and were informed that it was not possible to use captured rainwater for potable water purposes in MD and that the state followed the regulatory requirements of US EPA, which had no framework providing for the use of captured rainwater for potable purposes in a public water system. AFF subsequently met with the Director of the Water Protection Division for US EPA Region III and other EPA staff to discuss whether there was an opportunity to work with EPA to establish the viability of captured rainwater for potable purpose in Public Water Systems. The inquiry was well received and the Director subsequently invited AFF’s team to present the idea at a regional conference of water authorities. However, Region III EPA ultimately deferred to the judgment of the national office.

AFF and its consultants began reaching out to other projects aspiring to net zero water to enlist their collaboration, most notably the Bullitt Foundation in Seattle and the Stroud Water Research Center in Southeastern Pennsylvania. A meeting with EPA’s national Office of Water was organized by AFF and joined by all three institutions with the objective of engaging EPA in a pilot project using the three facilities and others that were enrolled in LBC to develop a new classification for captured rainwater as a potable water source and an appropriate testing protocol and regulatory regime for the same. Multiple senior members of the Office of Water, including the Deputy Assistant Administrator and members of EPA’s Research and Development staff attended. While the EPA expressed interest, no EPA funding was available to support the research. AFF and Stroud made subsequent attempts to find grant funding to support the necessary research without success, and the problem remains unresolved.

With respect to use of composting toilets and alternative treatment, AFF again approached Maryland Department of Environment (MDE), where it garnered support for both. However, MDE would not directly interfere with decisions made by the County health department. AFF and its consultants embarked on a lengthy education campaign with the County, which included submission of technical documentation from other states that was corroborated by MDE. After 3 years of effort, Prince George’s County permitted the installation of an “experimental” greywater drip irrigation system and acquiesced to installation of composting toilets which were authorized through an MDE Wastewater Discharge Permit.


AFF’s advocacy and persistence has set a precedent which should allow other projects in Prince George’s County Maryland to pursue the use of composting toilets and alternative greywater treatment and reuse systems.


From a regulatory perspective, water is the most challenging of the LBC requirements, both in terms of potable water supply and waste water treatment/reuse. Tackling the regulatory issues on a project by project basis are inefficient and exceedingly time and resource intensive. A broader, national approach is needed, particularly with respect to developing an EPA classification and regulatory framework for captured rainwater as a potable water source.



The premise behind the design approach for the Potomac Watershed Study Center Grass Building was first to conserve energy through passive approaches and second to generate onsite solar energy to achieve an annual net positive energy balance. The goal was to provide some of the power needed for the Moss building that is nestled on a north facing slope in the woods.

The team first focused on passive strategies. For the Grass building, this includes natural ventilation, daylight, and a thermally tight building envelope. The building envelope includes walls with spray foam cavity insulation plus additional continuous exterior insulation, structural insulated panel roofs, and double-paned windows with an additional air layer trapped by suspended film to minimize thermal conductivity. The window design strategy allows for both natural ventilation and daylight. Windows are located both at the occupant level on the north and south walls and at a north facing clerestory in the center of the building. This allows for balanced light and air movement from low to high.

The team selected active systems to meet the requirements that passive systems could not. The project team worked closely with the owner to ‘right-size’ the systems. Heating, cooling, and dehumidification for the building are provided primarily by a ground-coupled heat pump system which is connected to five vertical wells, each 450 feet deep. This system is paired with an energy recovery ventilation system which provides fresh air when natural ventilation is not possible. Advanced controls minimize pump energy and provide demand control to distribute only as much fresh air as is needed.

Lighting systems were designed to provide only the minimum light levels needed. Photovoltaic sensors keep the lights off when ample daylight is available. Lights are also controlled by motion sensors to keep lights off when the building is unoccupied.

Solar thermal panels were included to save significant energy while generating hot water, and low-flow faucets and showerheads were used to reduce hot water demand.

Plug loads were reviewed with both the design team and building staff so that the energy impacts could be understood by all. A review of equipment needs and the energy implications helped occupants understand how their choices impact energy. A building dashboard provides data to the occupants so they can track where and how much energy they use.

Once the final design was modeled, the team determined that the building could meet the goal of generating all of the energy on the roof. The photovoltaic panels are grid connected. There is currently no onsite energy storage.


Photo Courtesy of Re:Vision Architecture

The team focused on a number of health-related issues during the design, construction, and occupancy of the project. During design, products were of course selected to meet the Red List requirements to minimize occupant exposure to harmful chemicals. Selection of interior products was also based on product maintenance. Preference was given to products that could be cleaned using just soap and water or with a green cleaning product during occupancy. The depth of the building was also considered so that when people are seated in the common space for a meeting or education session, they are never further than 30’ from an operable window.

Giving people a strong connect to the outside was also a high priority. To accomplish this, the team first sited the building so that the north side would abut a large street stand. Then the height of the finished floor was based on a height in which occupants could view both the understory and the canopy of the trees from the window and also from the breezeway. Large operable windows were also positioned on the south façade to give a full view of the open field adjacent to the buildings. Finally, the clerestory windows allow occupants to look up at the treetops and the blue sky beyond.

Air quality was also a consideration during design and construction. To promote natural ventilation, a combination of lower operable window and clerestory window was used to allow for some natural ventilation. Also, during construction, after the enclosure had been established, the contractor designated an exterior cutting area to minimize indoor contaminants from construction activities.


The project was designed in such a way that the common room and catering kitchen clerestory windows primarily provide daylight and fresh/ventilation air when the building occupants require it. In addition, operable double hung windows are located on the south façade and a series of operable casement windows are located on the north façade below the clerestory windows to provide views and another level of thermal comfort control. A large slider window is also located on the east façade to accommodate the catering kitchen.


Kitchens, bathrooms, and janitor closets are separately ventilated and exhausted directly to outside air. Ventilation rates are designed to comply with ASHRAE 62, and equipment has been installed to monitor carbon dioxide levels, temperature, and humidity. The bulk of the fresh air for the building is provided via two energy recovery ventilators, which exchange heat between outgoing exhaust and incoming fresh air to reduce the energy required to temper the fresh air. An additional makeup air system provides dedicated fresh air to the toilet rooms only to make up for their exhaust. Fresh air is filtered by MERV 13 filters.

As the project’s purpose is to support the Alice Ferguson Foundation’s environmental education programs, special attention was given to the dirt track in system as the majority of the activities are first conducted outdoors. The Grass Building utilizes an exterior deck on the south façade, permanently installed metal walk off grating at exterior entrances, and permanently installed walk off carpet at the interior of building entrances.


The team employed many elements of biophilia throughout the building and site that can first be observed when one arrives at the property. At the main entrance to the site, there is a vehicular entrance off of Bryan Point Road, but more importantly, there is a walking path to encourage a pedestrian approach to the building. The walking path meanders, taking visitors through a large tree grove to the west of the Grass building. The path also incorporates a small foot bridge used to cross a small wetland before the last big turn that brings the visitor out of the tree grove and gives them their first view of the Grass building.

Approaching the building and walking up the stairs to the breezeway, one can see salvaged white oak post supporting wood trusses holding solar panels. The posts show their age through their hand-hewn texture and mortise and tenon joints left over from their previous use. Looking through the breezeway, a magnificent view of the forest understory and tree canopy is framed, inviting one to the edge of the deck to get a closer look. On sunny days, light filters through the solar panels and polycarbonate, creating a pleasant speckled diffused light within the breezeway space.

As night falls, the large stone-clad fireplace centrally located in the breeze way can be lit to provide a warm gathering space for students and visitors to share stories and give city dwellers their first campfire experience. Likewise, on cold winter nights, a wood-burning stove with a stone backdrop allows visitors to congregate around the fire while being surrounded by the warmth of the wood truss and wainscoting.

On either side of the wood stove are art deco style murals that include abstracted water lilies, cattails, and clouds. This is in homage to the foundation founders, Henry and Alice Ferguson, in keeping with their taste of the 1920’s. Also, in both the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms, full wall murals have been painted to mirror the habitats of Hard Bargin Farm along with the flora and fauna in which they live. The boys’ room depicts what might commonly be seen on a typical spring day in the tidal freshwater wetland nearby. Terrestrial plants and animals in family groups can be seen in the girls’ room.


Photo Courtesy of Re:Vision Architecture

To achieve the Materials Petal, the team began by researching major building components and products during the design development phase to inform design decisions. Research continued though construction documents and into construction as there were miscellaneous products needed during construction that were not identified during the design phases. Each product was researched using the same basic methodology: confirm the manufacturing location, reviewing MSDS and other documentation against the Red List, and communicate and coordinate with the manufacturer to request the product or material’s additional ingredients. If any one step did not qualify, the process was repeated, up to three times, with another product or material that met the performance requirements. Each project team member was responsible for vetting the products listed or related to their specification or discipline with the exception of the structural and civil engineers. The contractor also played a vital role in helping to gather and coordinate materials research information and was especially effective because of the buying power their company represented when contacting manufacturers for transparency information.

After a few months of submittals, it became clear additional communication between the design team and the construction team would be needed for all parties to be better informed on the status of research item. To accomplish this, the team members participated in weekly submittal calls in which the contractor would go down the list of open submittals and the design team members would give updates on their research in terms of when it was anticipated to be complete and any issues they had encountered. This turned out to be a very effective communication tool and aided in the efficiency of the research as team members had to provide weekly updates on their progress.

Concerning end of life / adaptive reuse, after contemplating what other functions the Grass Building could possibly serve on the Alice Ferguson Foundation campus, the team realized it would be unlikely that another entity would occupy it as it is at the heart of the active side of the property. It was equally unlikely it would be used for another purpose other than meeting space or educational space because phase two of the project will be the construction of the Moss Building which will include more traditional classroom spaces and staff offices. For the above reasons, the team decided to focus its time on developing a detailed outline specification and procedure for the owner to use when the building reaches the end of its useful life.


Three product classes that presented challenges to meeting the requirements of this Imperative were insulation, plumbing, and HVAC products. Insulation was difficult because each insulation type evaluated contained a Red List ingredient. It was especially important to the project to be able to utilize the I11-E12 9/2010 exception for HFR in rigid and spray foam insulation to achieve the required thermal performance to meet net zero energy.

Plumbing was challenging because the January 2014 amendment to the “Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act” had not yet taken full effect, so many manufacturers were still transitioning many of their product lines to be compliant. This required the team to look at multiple manufacturers for each plumbing product. In addition, the team learned that for some of the larger manufacturers, each product was overseen by a product manager and that is was necessary to talk to that particular person in order to request the transparency documentation needed.

HVAC documentation was also tough because of the complexity of the products being reviewed. Most often, manufacturers did have a full bill of materials for their products, which made the task of determining which would need to be reviewed troublesome. Without the I11-E3 4/2010 Small components exception, documenting many of the project’s HVAC equipment would not have been possible.


Typical ProductRed List ProductManufacturer
Concrete Admixture contained formaldehydeSIKA concrete AdmixturesSIKA
Creasote or Arsenic Pressure Treated WoodMicronized Copper Azole (MCA) Treated WoodOsmose
Glulam Post Containing FormaldehydeSalvaged Oas PostN/A
Adhesive Containing FormaldehydeReused Degabond 948 SIP Adhesive in multiple application.BASF
Composite Wood Containing FormaldehydePurebond PlywoodColombia Forest Products
Fiberglass Insulation Containing FormaldehydeInsulation board. After having conversations with Knauf, they obtained Declare® labels for their products.Knauf
Paint for Metal Gutters and Downspouts Containing FormaldehydeHDPE and ABS PipingFlyling W, Banjo Fittings, Chemtrol
Plumbing Insulation with PVC ResinUT Solarflex NA that is EPDM-based.Armacell
PVC-Coated Electrical CouplingManufacturer made product-specific with ABS shell instead of PVC. E-LOC CouplingETCO


The design team’s approach to reducing the project’s embodied carbon began with evaluating different structural systems and their potential contribution to the project’s embodied carbon footprint. A steel structure, wood structure, and concrete structure were examined as part of the exercise. The outcome was that wood was used as the primary structural system for the project because it had the lowest embodied carbon footprint.

Another strategy the team used to minimize embodied carbon was by reducing the amount of aluminum in the project, particularly by choosing not to use utilize storefront window systems. Site-sourced wood was used for the common room wainscoting to minimize embodied carbon that would be generated from materials transportation. The project also utilized salvaged wood flooring that was previously part of barn. Finally, the project incorporated 25% fly ash into the cast in place cement on the project.


PROJECT – Landfill Gas Utilization
PROVIDER – Sterling Planet, Inc.

CARBON CALCULATOR – Green Footstep (Rocky Mountain Institute)


The project reached out to numerous industry groups to advocate for the creation and adoption of third-party standards for the sustainable extraction of stone, metals, and minerals. These groups included ASTM International, the American Copper Council, the American Exploration & Mining Association, the American Iron and Steel Institute, and the National Stone, Sand, and Gravel Association.

The project utilized Prince George’s County Wage Scale as control for all labor performed on the project. The county’s listed wages in most cases were greater than those listed in both the State and National Prevailing Wage Rate Documents. The Terms of Wage Scale enforcement and reporting are regulated by the need for the general contractor to submit weekly certified labor reports to the county.

WOOD SOURCES Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified wood, Salvaged wood, Wood harvested on site


Product TypeManufacturerManufacturer Location
Framing Lumber84 Lumber CompanyWhite Plains, MD
TrussesTimplex CorporationWantage, NJ
SIPsPorter CorporationHolland, MI
Glulam TrussesHugh Lofting Timber FramingKennett Square, PA

TIMBER HARVEST AND LUMBER SEASONING PROCESS Harvest – Columbia Forest Products (Greensboro, NC), Potlatch Land & Lumber LLC (Warren, Arkansas)

NOTABLE BROKERS OF SALVAGED MATERIALS Floor & Plank – Pioneer Millworks (Farmington, NY)


Products and materials were sourced from as close as possible to the project to minimize travel distance and to meet the requirements of the Appropriate Sourcing Imperative. Special emphasis was put on sourcing landscape related products regionally. As the project is located outside of Washington DC, it was able to utilize much of the manufacturing capacity of the northeast corridor, though some products were still problematic to source. The first, on the architectural side, was FSC framing lumber and sheathing. The project’s structural engineer called for Southern Yellow Pine framing and sheathing for performance reasons. After the team thoroughly researched their options, the closet location for these products was Warren, Arkansas and Chopin, Louisiana. Similarly, FSC open web floor joists were difficult to source as many manufacturers in the northeast part of the country do not offer FSC options as there is not a large demand for it.

Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs) were also tough to locate. The team was able to locate a manufacturer that made panels within the appropriate zone radius, but, unfortunately, many of their sources for FSC OSB was beyond the source location distance allowed for Zone 2. The team did eventually locate a manufacturer in Minnesota who sources OSB from Canada.


While the project’s structural system was being evaluated for embodied carbon, end of life was also considered for the proposed steel, concrete, and wood structural systems. Ultimately, wood was chosen because of its lower embodied carbon as well as its opportunity for future salvage and recyclability.

During construction, fastening and supporting methods were considered to minimize material use and maximize opportunity for salvage during deconstruction. Most notably, the SIPs were manufactured longer than the standard size to enable them to space between the large wood truss that would support them and eliminate the need for intermediate framing. The SIPs were also fastened using long screws rather than nails to enable them to be removed easily during deconstruction and retain high quality when salvaged. Also, the SIP panel installer did not use the entire adhesive stock for installation, so some remained on site. The contractor suggested the same product be used for the subfloor to utilize the remaining stock and minimize the need for additional material. After some research, the adhesive was found to meet performance critera and was used.

Finally, to ensure the building would be properly deconstructed and the maximum amount of material salvaged, a detailed deconstruction specification outline was developed. The plan includes an environmental assessment, a scope of desired deconstruction services and submittals, and a required “Deconstruction Plan” that addresses how elements such as interior walls and load bearing structures will be recycled or salvaged.


On the exterior, the hand-hewn post that supports the trusses at the breeze way and the east porch were salvaged from a barn in central Pennsylvania. On the interior, the wood flooring in the common room area was reclaimed from barns and other agriculture buildings located in the eastern United States.


The glulam truss manufacturer for the project, Hugh Lofting Timber Framing, obtained their FSC Chain of Custody certification so they could participate in the project.

After working with the window manufacturer, Alpen High Performance Products, and asking for detailed documentations for the project, the team learned at the Living Product Expo that the documentation for this project was used to help the company obtain a Declare® Label.

Early communication with Knauf Insulation resulted in their participation in the Declare® program.



The project first begins to address the human scale by locating the majority of the zoning-required parking away from building in an existing grove of trees surrounded by new vegetation to mitigate the visual connection to vehicular circulation. By placing the parking away from the building, the project encourages a pedestrian approach to the building for its visitors. In addition, a walking path is adjacent to the site’s main vehicular entrance to allow pedestrian access to the building by a meandering path through a preserved mature forest stand of mixed hardwoods and understory vegetation

To promote interaction between people who visit and work in the building, the project includes a large south-facing deck that incorporates terraced amphitheater seating into the design. This is used as a gathering and seating area for educational programing operated by the Alice Ferguson Foundation. The project also has a covered deck on the east side of the building, adjacent to the catering kitchen, where seating is placed to allow people to partake in a meal together. Food and drink is served to visitors through a sliding widow from the catering kitchen to the deck. Also a stone fireplace is located on the outdoor breezeway between the two main spaces of the building. It is used for group enjoyment and education sessions to continue the tradition in rural areas of gathering around fires for storytelling and to enjoy company. Lastly, the window height was considered to allow children to enjoy the same views taller adults would.


-Minimizing the visual clutter of site signage even though it is an environmental education center. Focusing on human interaction for learning through auditory engagement.  Checking in with Karen on how the building will be used for education.


Photo Courtesy of Re:Vision Architecture


Locating the building on the site was important for obtaining net zero energy, but it was also essential for allowing building occupants to experience the natural beauty of the site. The team decided the building should be positioned against the forest so that it would act as a backdrop when viewing the building, but would also give occupants a close-up view of the forest understory and canopy.

The building is also used to help frame views. Visitors enter under the breezeway formed by the two masses of the building. The north end of the breezeway frames a delightful view of the treetops adjacent to the building. Birds and other forest creatures are easily seen and heard, giving the visitors – most often school children – an up close experience with a part of nature that many of us rarely get to experience by walking up to the edge of the overhanging deck. Also contained on the breezeway is a stone-clad fireplace with two large openings on either side of the firebox to store wood from fallen trees on the property. The combination of the stacked wood and stone gives the fireplace a warm and familiar feeling. The raised hearth at the base of the fireplace allows one to sit close to the fire and feel the heat from the flames as he or she tells a story to those gathered around. This type of gathering around the fire is a tradition at the property. It is especially appealing to grade school children who come from the city and have never had an experience like this.

The breezeway is covered by polycarbonate panels that are then covered by solar panels that filter the sunlight as it passes through them. This provides even, diffused lighting on a sunny day, giving the breezeway a more room-like feel. Looking up at the solar panels, bright slits of light are visible between the panels, and when the sun is out, this translates into slices of light that move across the breezeway decking as the sun travels along the south face of the building.

The breezeway and east porches are supported by hand-hewn salvaged barn columns. The hand hewing is very pronounced on each of the beams with hewn marking and striations that create an interesting visual and physical texture. The beams have been stained with a dark finish to further call attention to them. The visually appealing texture draws people in closer, and often the reaction is to run a hand over the beam. Each beam, therefore, encourages a physical interaction with the building.

The team decided to create murals that mirrored the habitats of Hard Bargain Farm along with the flora and fauna that live in them. Two artistically talented AFF staff members set out to create two murals, each about 20 feet in length, in the boys’ and girls’ restrooms.  The boys’ room depicts what might commonly be seen on a typical spring day in the tidal freshwater wetland nearby. Terrestrial plants and animals in family groups can be seen in the girls’ room. Visitors are captivated by the scenes, both by their beauty and the fact that they reflect what visitors might encounter while exploring Hard Bargain Farm.

Because the farm belonged to Henry and Alice Ferguson, the team wanted to install something that was in keeping with the Fergusons’ tastes of the 1920s.  They loved art deco and nouveau décor and the team thought that the common room would be greatly enhanced by a serene two-piece mural in the style of the period that included marsh plants native to the farm. The muted colors bring a sense of well-being to the viewer. The texture of the marsh mud was made using the same rope-wrapped paddle imprinting technique that local Native Americans have used on pottery for millennia; thus, giving another layer of meaning to the piece of art.


This project’s mission is firmly rooted in education. One of the primary building functions is to provide a learning environment for people of all ages; the larger complex, in which this building plays a key role, serves more than 5,000 students each year. Informational signage is provided to convey details about the design and operation of the building to visitors. Various spaces – both indoor and outdoor – were designed into the project to facilitate opportunities to learn from the surroundings and speakers. From educational programs for students and interpretive nature walks to the annual Spring Farm Festival, the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Environmental Center inspires and educates visitors and the larger community on a daily basis.

Spring Farm Festival (2001 Bryan Point Road Accokeek, MD) 11am-4pm
Tours available to highlight the LBC project and its achievements.