Hard Hat Area: November ELC Progress

If you’ve been able to pay a visit to Drumlin Farm this fall, you may have noticed that parts of the farm look a little different these days! Construction of the Environmental Learning Center began in September, and we couldn’t be happier with the results so far. Replacing our current building, the 60-year-old winterized screen room, the ELC will be a major transformation of how our education team works at Drumlin Farm. With space designed to foster collaboration and creativity, plus room for our 15 full-time education staff and 100+ part-time teacher-naturalists, the building represents the next generation of environmental education, sustainability, and conservation brought to you.

Over the course of the project, we’ll be bringing you updates on the construction in progress, including the details of the state-of-the-art net-zero design that makes the physical structure of the building as innovative as the people who will work inside it. Here’s a peek at what’s been happening so far.


We held our official “ground-breaking ceremony” on October 15, but our top-notch crew at Chapman Construction/Design had already beaten us in starting in on the excavation! Tree clearing around the site was carefully designed to leave as many mature trees as possible while maximizing the solar availability for the photovoltaic array that will be located on the roof. Much of the plant material that was removed consisted of invasive species with low habitat value. At the conclusion of the project, we will be replanting the entire area with native trees, shrubs, and grasses that will significantly improve the habitat for wildlife.


Once the site was clear, it has been amazing how quickly things happen. First up was the foundation work. The high levels of organic matter in Drumlin Farm soil is great for farming, but not so great for putting a heavy building on, so we had to dig down to glacial bedrock before pouring the foundation walls.


The inside of the foundation walls are lined with 5” thick foam to insulate the building from the “thermal sink” that is Planet Earth. This level of insulation allows us to minimize the energy needed to heat the building in winter.


Definition of the entrance roadway and sidewalk took place in parallel with the foundation work. Our excavator uncovered this “nugget” of ledge that will take a little drilling to accommodate the location of the walking path, but the remainder of which is going to become a really beautiful feature for kids to explore on the walk from the car before or after their Drumlin Farm program.


This is probably the only time we will get to see an excavator INSIDE the building! Once the foundation walls were set, the interior was refilled with compacted earth.


We’re thankful to have such a terrific crew working on the project. We can tell that being part of Mass Audubon’s mission is important to them, and they are always willing to wave hello to young visitors peeking in through the fence.


As November closed, the slab was poured on top of more foam and a thick plastic vapor barrier. The insets for the supporting columns let us get a first glimpse into where the rooms in the building will be and how much space our educators will have to do their work.

Look for more updates coming soon! If you would like to learn more about the project, or get involved yourself, we invite you to learn more here.

Renata Pomponi

Sanctuary Director

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About Kelly R.

Where: Mass Audubon Headquarters, Lincoln & Metro West Sanctuaries Who: Farm-fanatic, house plant caretaker, and hiking aficionado living in Salem, bringing sustainable practices and outdoor adventures into everyday life. Favorite part of the job: lunch break walks around Drumlin Farm