The Harris Center for Conservation Education

At the Harris Center, C&H was able to save and improve the existing historic building as well as create a compatible new space with minimal disruption to the site.

The original building was cherished by Harris Center students and staff for its historic charm, but it was also renowned for being cold, dark, and drafty. By contrast, the renovated building is well insulated and comfortable, and filled with natural light. It is also much more efficient to operate.

Project Details

Much of the existing building was preserved and reused, but with substantial envelope improvements, it is now much more efficient to operate.

Triple glazed windows were installed throughout, significantly contributing to improved interior comfort.

Four new composting toilets were installed, which allowed for increased occupancy, while precluding the need for a size increase in the septic system, which now processes only greywater.

An energy recovery ventilator provides pre-conditioned fresh air for the offices and the large new meeting space. The primary heating plant is a pellet boiler fed by an auger and exterior silo.

Material selections include certified flooring, refinished existing floors, carpet tiles with recycled backing, linoleum, recycled-plastic trackoff matting, and rubber flooring.

The Babbit Meeting Room, which comprises the majority of the new addition, is built on a double story octagonal timberframe. The owner searched for trees on their woodlands for curved braces, and the remainder of the timbers were either salvaged or came from local forests. This room can provide space for up to 120 people to attend educational presentations and special events.

The balustrades were made of century-old cypress salvaged from river bottoms. Each one is carved with the profile of a native wildlife species, a special attraction for young visitors. The Wildlife Room has a bay window on the west side overlooking a birdfeeding station.

The main entry was rerouted to the west, closer to available parking, allowing the building to be accessed from two levels. This also allowed for reconfiguration of the existing interior space to better suit the Center’s needs.

Project Team


C&H Architects, Amherst, MA

Construction Manager

Bruss Construction, Concord, NH