FAQs

Q: What is the Omega Center for Sustainable Living?
A: The Omega Center for Sustainable Living is an environmental education center and natural water reclamation facility built to meet the highest standards currently available in sustainable architecture. It is the first green building in America to receive both LEED® Platinum and Living Building Challenge™ certification.

Q: What is LEED® Platinum?
A: Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating System™ is an internationally recognized green building certification program. It provides third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance in energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. LEED® awards certifications based on a 100-point scale. The total number of points a project earns determines its LEED® status: Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. The Omega Center for Sustainable Living has received LEED® Platinum status.

Q: What is the Living Building Challenge?
A: The Living Building Challenge, a program of the Cascadia Region Green Building Council, is a call to action in seven key performance areas of sustainable architecture: site, water, energy, heath, materials, equity, and beauty. It is comprised of a set of stringent prerequisites that include generating all energy with renewable resources; capturing and treating all water used in a building; and using building materials void of hazardous chemicals. Projects can be certified as Living Buildings if they prove to meet all of the program requirements after 12 months of continued operation. The Omega Institute for Sustainable Living is one of the first projects to participate in the Living Building Challenge and has been named as one of the first Living Buildings in the world.

Q: Why build the OCSL?
A: In 2005, Omega realized that our aging wastewater septic system would soon need to be replaced. Instead of installing a new septic system, we wanted to create a different kind of water treatment system—one that would reflect Omega's core value of sustainability and treat water not as waste, but as a precious resource. We identified three criteria to be met by the natural water reclamation system we envisioned: 1) water reclamation using zero chemicals; 2) water reclamation using low energy; 3) educational opportunities for individuals and groups to learn about natural water reclamation, green building, and sustainable living. In designing and building the Eco Machine™ and the Omega Center for Sustainable Living, we met each of these criteria.

Q: How long did it take to plan and build the Omega Center for Sustainable Living?
A: From initial concept to finished building, it took five years to construct the OCSL. There was the first year of planning and then another two years spent obtaining all the necessary building permits. One and two-thirds years were spent actually constructing the building.

Q: How much did it cost to build the Omega Center for Sustainable Living
A: It cost $4.1 million to build the OCSL. As of October 2010, Omega has received generous contributions from funders totaling $2.6 million toward the $3.2 million OCSL campaign goal. Omega has also borrowed $1.5 million at less than 5% interest to meet the building's cost. That interest rate was reduced to 1% through a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) grant. To accommodate tours and educational programs, it was necessary to size the building much larger than necessary for water reclamation only. This added greatly to the cost. We are glad we made the investment! Thousands have already taken advantage of OCSL tours, workshops, and conferences.

Q: What's the monitoring and maintenance of the OCSL and Eco Machine™ like?
A: The systems of the OCSL are fully automated and manage temperature, humidity, and lighting, and record all energy used by the building's systems. The Eco Machine™ requires water testing in order to meet regulatory standards. The overall maintenance of the Eco Machine™ is minimal and consists mainly of plant and filter care. As a result, maintenance for both the OCSL and the Eco Machine™ takes just a couple of hours per day.

Q: Are tours of the OCSL available?
A: Yes, free OCSL tours are offered by appointment year round, and on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. during Omega's season (April to October). We welcome students of all ages, teachers, activists, contractors, architects, elected officials, and many others. During a tour, visitors can observe the Eco Machine™ treating all of Omega's wastewater without chemicals, and get a close-up look at the solar and geothermal systems that satisfy 100% of the building's energy, and heating and cooling needs. To schedule a tour, contact us at OCSL@eOmega.org.

Q: What kind of workshops and conferences are offered through the OCSL?
A: We offer sustainable living programs to help people connect with the natural world and preserve the planet for future generations. Workshops range from canning local foods, to mindfulness meditation in nature, to conferences on biomimicry, permaculture, and sustainable architecture.