Energy Generation
 

Energy Generation

A tour of Centerbrook Architects with Mark Simon ’64 inspires Pomfret students.


Centerbrook Architects and Planners is an architecture firm with which Pomfret is very familiar. They have completed two master plans and six buildings at Pomfret — including designing Olmsted Observatory and Centennial Academic & Arts Center and renovating Jahn Rink and Hard Auditorium. Additionally, Mark Simon ’64 is a principal architect at the firm. A pioneer in “green” architecture, Simon recently hosted students from our Global and Sustainable Development (GSD) class at Centerbrook’s office to check out the renewable energy practices Centerbrook utilizes.

Simon explains the sustainable practices Centerbrook has designed and implemented in the Falls River outside their office building.

Located along Falls River in a renovated 19th-century industrial building — which has been utilizing water power since 1697 — is Centerbrook’s office. In 1982, they updated the hydropower turbine to more efficiently harness the power of the river's waterfall outside their building. Since 2006, they have captured the energy from the sun through solar photovoltaic panels on their roof. These two systems produce 50 percent of the electricity used by the office. Over the years, their space has become a test lab to experiment with new and innovative sustainability methods for their clients. They have also built a vegetated or “green” roof that helps control heating and cooling costs and reduces air pollution and stormwater runoff. In their pond, they have installed a geothermal heating loop, which is more effective than traditional geothermal systems that exchange heat deep within the ground. 

Simon gave the students a tour of the office building and explained how each system was developed and worked. “I loved having the students come to the office. There's a lot of sustainable applications to share that people don't see anywhere else,” he said. 

Our students have seen these sustainable practices before. While on their class trip to Costa Rica during the Project Pomfret period, they met with hydroelectric, geothermal, and solar professionals and saw the large systems they are responsible for. What they did not see in Costa Rica, however, was multiple sustainability practices working together. “It was inspiring to see a company so close to the Hilltop being intentional about their impact on the environment,” said Patrick Burke, one of the teachers of the GSD class. “They also enjoyed seeing a different career path they could pursue while still achieving their passion for renewable energy and sustainability — something we often discuss in class.”

Simons details his latest sustainability architecture projects.

In addition to the tour, Simon shared his previous sustainability work as well as current projects. “Mr. Simon talked about the project's financing and how it is important to be mindful of the clients’ budget when implementing sustainable methods and designs,” shares Lauren Kim ’25. “It was also great to talk to an alum who, while at Pomfret, had access to a wide range of courses that helped him discover what career he wanted to pursue.” 

Simon also enjoyed his talk with the students. “It was wonderful to see how curious the students were. They are much more sophisticated and knowledgeable about sustainable topics than I thought they would be,” he shared. “It was inspiring for me to see how inspired they are. It's nice to know that we have fellow travelers on the journey of toward a more sustainable future. It just gives me all the more energy to continue doing it.”
 

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