New Bedford’s Voc-Tech Students Put Final Touches on Lloyd Center Building Renovation

by Seth Chitwood, Standard-Times

photo: Peter Pereira, Standard Times

Started in 2016, the “Living Building Challenge™” has been a project built entirely by Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School students. The Lloyd Center’s environmentally sustainable new welcome center will be a hub for visitors and provide students with educational programs.

“Honestly, this is the most unique project I’ve ever worked on,” said Scott Thibault, the school’s plumbing instructor. “It’s great work from the kids. That’s the best part of it. It’s real. It’s contributing to the community, kids give back, kids receive; they’ll come here for years, or bring their kids here.”

The Lloyd Center serves individuals, agencies, and organizations in southeastern New England, focused on educating the public about coastal and watershed issues, and conducting research on coastal ecosystems and endangered species. According to the Lloyd Center website, the Center’s main building is closed to the public due to the renovations, but visitors can enjoy the walking trails, which are open free to the public from dawn to dusk.

What is an ‘LBC™’ building?

Located at 430 Potomska Road, the building will be open seven days a week. It will not use municipal water or sewer and will generate its own power. “The building is living, breathing, and all of the materials are ‘Red List’ chemical free, so it doesn’t have toxins. It’s not off-gassing or anything,” said Kathryn Duff, lead architect from Studio2Sustain Inc., who has been affiliated with the center since 1993. “It’s so exciting to see this come together. All the hard work. I’m very happy about it,” she said.

photo: Peter Pereira, Standard Times

According to The Living Building Challenge™, the Red List represents the “worst in class” materials, chemicals, and elements that pose serious risks to human health and the greater ecosystem, and that are prevalent in the building products industry.

In addition to a composting toilet, the building will also feature a safe area to drop off students and wash hands before working in the field.

The building will also have net zero energy, a grey water garden; an energy generation wall; and will be a carbon-neutral site and healthy habitat. It will also be a classroom on inclement weather days. 

Remembering all their hard work

Brayden Webb, Alex Chivalanriz, Adriel Moreno and Dustyn Gaspar, all graduating this year from Voc-Tech, returned to the site on Friday to observe the finishing touches. “It’s amazing to see it, it’s been going on for six years,” said Moreno. “Yeah, I’ll come back and visit.”

Students did everything such as shingling, plumbing, building window and door frames and installing the layers of installations in the walls. Voc-Tech’s plumbing, carpentry and heating and air conditioning instructors are leading the students through the construction.

“I did tiling inside the bathroom, and stuff on the roof,” Chivalanriz added. The students said they remembered resourcing the oak trees on site to repurpose it for the trim and finding it exciting to see the process. “The solar power stuff I want to learn more about,” Webb said, who said he has visited the Lloyd Center on field trips, but would come back on his own to explore.

photo: Peter Pereira, Standard Times

“The highlight for us is that we’ve had years of students participate in this, which is a state of the art facility and just a really powerful learning experience,” said Michael P. Watson, Superintendent-Director of the school. “Through different conditions, a global pandemic, there’s so many great pieces of this, our kids will be able to celebrate not only in the here and now but as time goes on to say they were a part of something much bigger than themselves.”

What is the Lloyd Center in Dartmouth?

The 82 acres of estuary and maritime forest was donated by Karen Lloyd in honor of her mother, Katharine Nordell Lloyd. Since 1980, according to the website, the Lloyd Center has been the only area organization focused on educating the public about coastal and watershed issues as well as conducting research on coastal ecosystems and endangered species.

“Education is a big part of our mission. That’s why that’s one of the reasons it was so important to work with Voc-Tech students and instructors,” said Rachel Stronach, the Lloyd Center’s executive director. She also said the other purpose of the building is a resource for the community which will soon announce its grand opening in July.

“We understand not everybody’s going to build an LBC™ building. But there are certain aspects of the building that people could use in their own homes,” she said.  “And this is a place for community members to come learn about that.”