SBSR Sustainability Treehouse

Summit Bechtel Scout Reserve
Mt. Hope, West Virginia

  • Architect: Mithun (design architect); BNIM (executive architect)
  • Contractor: Swope Construction Co. Inc.
  • Developer: Boy Scouts of America / Trinity Works
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Credit: Joe Fletcher

Designed to be a net-zero energy building within the framework of Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification, the building will function as a role model of sustainable construction.

The Sustainability Treehouse is part of the Gateway Village currently under construction at the the Summit Bechtel Scout Reserve in West Virginia. The Summit will be the home of the National Scout Jamboree and will function as an adventure center for the millions of youth and adults involved in the BSA and anyone who loves the outdoors.

The Treehouse features photovoltaic panels, solar thermal collectors, vertical-axis wind turbines, and a geothermal system. A closed-loop rainwater harvesting system also assures a net-zero water balance. Skanska USA was on board as preconstruction contractor to provide input throughout the design phase of the project.

The main structure of the Treehouse is entirely architecturally exposed and was fabricated from weathering steel to withstand the exterior elements in the most sustainable way possible. The steel megaframe is approximately 150ft tall and combines space-truss and moment-frame lateral systems. At its top, a large photovoltaic array soars above the surrounding tree canopy. Two enclosed box structures were prefabricated and mounted onto the main structure through four pedestal connections. The box structures consist of enclosed steel HSS welded trusses and frames with infill wood framing for walls and floors.

Tipping Mar worked extensively with the contractor to locate splices in the structure in order to optimize prefabrication and on-site craning. The design also features exterior hanging stairs and walkways and a clad elevator shaft that is suspended from the main structure.

Extensive 3D modeling and structural analysis was required to address the complex and irregular geometry of the Treehouse structure. Because the majority of the building consists of architecturally exposed structural steel, every connection was carefully studied in 3D and detailed for optimal visual appearance. All wood members, both sawn lumber and glulam, are made of FSC southern pine. In an effort to tread lightly, we conducted extensive 3D modeling of the existing site conditions and different foundation systems to minimize the structure's impact on existing ground flora and fauna. This effort included analysis of existing tree locations and the shielding of existing tree drip lines and root extents from the impacts of foundation and construction works.




Executed as Tipping Mar