John Dorr Nature Laboratory

Horace Mann School


Almost all of the initial work in preparing the building site for the John Dorr Nature Lab was done by the students of Horace Mann School. They split wood, cleared trails and stream beds, and built shelters. The original lodge had no plumbing or shower, only an outhouse accommodating eight. The lab was then, and is now, an exemplification of the school’s belief that educational institutions should provide experiences both inside and outside the traditional classroom.

All students of the school visit this 265-acre outdoor campus as part of the academic curriculum. In this living laboratory, an awareness, understanding and appreciation of the earth and its environment are instilled. Given this outlook, it is no surprise that when it came time for a new lodge and bunk house on the John Dorr campus, the school was very concerned with sustainability.

Kohler Ronan’s extensive Sustainable Design experience was applied throughout the design process. Our team devised new HVAC, Electrical, Plumbing and Fire Protection (MEP/FP) systems with the idea that all sustainable elements would be an integral part of the learning environment. Rainwater harvesting, photovoltaic electrical generation, solar water heating, water conservation, and radiant floor warming systems were designed to be easily studied on student visits.


LOCATIONWashington, CT
ARCHITECTCenterbrook Architects
 & Planners
SIZE17,000 square feet
COST$8 million
LEEDLEED Gold Certified

Photo credit: ©Roger Williams/Centerbrook