Buildings, Grounds & Facilities

Hartwick boasts an impressive array of green buildings and other features. Golisano Hall, an academic building, is the only LEED-certified building in Otsego County. The Pine Lake Environmental Campus is home to two natural buildings: the Strawbale House, a multi-use structure, and the Cob House, which houses two students.

The history of natural building at Pine Lake stretches back to 1976, when Hartwick students constructed a log cabin on a wooded hilltop overlooking the Back Field.  The Arnold Rain Garden is located on the academic plateau of the main campus. Finally, a 10-kW photovoltaic system provides about half the electricity used annually in the Robertson Lodge at Pine Lake.


Log Cabin
Robertson Lodge
Strawbale House
Cob House
Golisano Hall

Grounds & Facilities:

Arnold Rain Garden
Composting Toilets

Vegetable & Herb garden

Composting bins

Fruit plants & trees

Log Cabin

Hartwick’s first natural building, a log cabin, was built at the College’s Pine Lake Environmental Campus in the mid-1970s. According to Pine Lake: A History, “…in 1975, two Hartwick students began construction on a log cabin. Steve Suleski and Pamela Peters built the log cabin as part of a series of independent history courses under Dr. Richard Haan. Suleski described the project as a chance to ‘recreate 18th century pioneer living in America.'”

A number of Hartwick students assisted with the log cabin’s construction, which was accomplished almost entirely with 18th-century techniques. Hand tools were utilized in place of power tools, and draft horses were used to drag logs to the building site.

The log cabin stood for over 25 years. The former site of the log cabin is still in use, as a home for banners made by students participating in Hartwick’s Awakening program.

Robertson Lodge

The Robertson Lodge at Hartwick’s Pine Lake Environmental Campus boasts a 10-kW photovoltaic system which provides on average about half of the building’s electricity over the course of a year.

It is a net metering system, which means that when the PV system produces more electricity than the Lodge is currently consuming, the excess electricity is fed back into the grid and we receive a credit on our electrical bill.

The Lodge’s PV system was supported by an incentive from NYSERDA, and installed by ETM Solar Works, a NYSERDA-certified installed based in Endicott, New York.

Strawbale House

The Strawbale House, completed in 2002, is one of two natural buildings located at Hartwick College’s Pine Lake Environmental Campus.

The Strawbale House was designed and constructed by students enrolled in Architecture of the Sacred, a Religious Studies course offered at Hartwick between 2000 and 2004. The course was co-taught by Professor of Religious Studies Sandy Huntington and natural builder Clark Sanders. Tjalling Heyning, Clark Sanders’ long-time building partner, also played a central role in the construction of the Strawbale House.

Architecture of the Sacred students designed the Strawbale House and began work on it in June 2000. The building was completed in 2002.

Cob House

The Cob House, completed in 2010, is one of two natural buildings located at Hartwick College’s Pine Lake Environmental Campus. (The first, the Strawbale House, was completed in 2002.)

The Cob House was designed by students enrolled in Architecture of the Sacred, a Religious Studies course offered at Hartwick between 2000 and 2004. The course was co-taught by Professor of Religious Studies Sandy Huntington and natural builder Clark Sanders.

The building was constructed in two phases. In phase one (the beginning phase), students worked with Clark Sanders, Sandy Huntington, and Sanders’ long-time building partner, Tjalling Heyning, to construct the outer shell of the building.

In phase two (the finish phase), the building was finished by a team which included Hartwick College students, alumni, staff, and volunteers.

The finish phase team included Gerrit Gibbs ’05 and Peter Jackson Hussey ’05, former Architecture of the Sacred students now working as natural builders, returned to Pine Lake to work as lead builders for the finish phase of the project.

Dan Morse ’97, coordinated the College’s and Pine Lake’s efforts.

While green buildings are becoming common on college and university campuses, natural buildings are remain quite unusual. The Cob House – student housing designed and constructed by students – may well be the only be the only building of its kind in the United States. (If you’re aware of other such buildings, please let us know.)

Cob is an earthen building material made from sand, clay, and straw. Students mixed these material and hand-applied the cob to form the building’s thick walls. The building’s exterior was then covered with a natural earthen finish plaster made onsite.

Over the course of the project, a wide array of individuals – students, faculty, staff, alumni, and volunteers – worked alongside natural builders to complete the structure.

Local, natural, and salvaged materials were used wherever possible. When new building materials were purchased, a special emphasis was placed on supporting locally-owned, independent businesses.

Hemlock flooring in the Cob House’s living area and pine flooring in the sleeping nooks was locally grown and milled by Wightman Specialty Woods, an independent, family-owned wood products company located less than 12 miles from the building site.

The building’s main roof and three secondary roofs are covered with roofing slates salvaged from a Delaware County, N.Y. dairy barn. Most framing lumber and roof decking was salvaged material.

Two large picture windows and a smaller landscape window were salvaged. All remaining windows are energy-efficient thermopanes manufactured by Syron Windows, a company headquartered in upstate New York, less than 100 miles from the building site.

Many items originated in buildings on the Hartwick College campus. The bathroom sink came from a residence hall, and the kitchen’s deep soapstone sink from a science building.

The kitchen table (custom-made by Peter Jackson Hussey ’05) is topped with slate that started out life as a chalkboard from an academic building.

Despite a tiny footprint of just 505 square feet, the Cob House feels bright and spacious inside, thanks to high ceilings, an open floor plan, and large windows which admit lots of natural light. To further maximize living space, student-designed sleeping nooks take the place of full bedrooms. (Visitors commonly cite the cozy nooks as a favorite feature of the building.)

Like most of Pine Lake’s student cabins, the Cob House is heated by a wood pellet stove. Wood pellets, made from compressed sawdust, a are a renewable resource, since most sawdust is a waste byproduct of wood manufacturing facilities.

In 2010-2011, we worked with filmmaker Joe Stillman of La Paloma Films to create a short documentary film about the history and construction of the Cob House.

Golisano Hall

Completed in 2008, Golisano Hall is Hartwick’s state-of-the-art academic building, The three-story, 36,000 square foot building houses academic departments, classrooms, breakout rooms, conference rooms, study lounges, and offices for faculty and staff.

In addition, the first floor is home to the Pine Lake Institute for Environmental and Sustainability Studies and the Center for Professional, Service, and Global Engagement.

Golisano Hall is Hartwick’s first LEED-certified building, and the first LEED-certified building in Otsego County. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a certification system developed by the the U.S. Green Building Council to provide specific criteria for green building design.

Energy efficiency, water conservation, and other green building features were incorporated into the design of Golisano Hall. The additional cost of environmentally sustainable design was supported by a Kresge Foundation Green Building Initiative Planning Grant in 2006.

Golisano Hall uses approximately 75% less energy than the average building on campus. According to a study funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the energy savings associated with this project reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 79,000 pounds annually.

Arnold Rain Garden

Hartwick College is committed to creating and maintaining a sustainable environment. The Arnold Rain Garden is part of a watershed system that assures the careful management of groundwater. The vegetation in this garden is native to this region and the flowering plants have been selected to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

The garden is named for Dr. Henry J. Arnold, the College’s third president, for whom Arnold Hall (formerly located on this site) was dedicated in 1959. Having housed the library, chapel and a memorial tower, Arnold Hall was the second building erected on this campus, and served as an academic building from 1968 to 2008.

The Arnold Rain Garden was designed to support the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification of adjacent Golisano Hall. The garden was opened to our community on September 1, 2009. This space provides a place for members of our community to pause and reflect upon the beauty of the Hartwick campus and the Susquehanna Valley.

Composting Toilets

Pine Lake’s Vaudevillian – so named for its original use as a vaudeville-era theatre hall – received a significant upgrade in 2012: a new 480 square foot addition featuring public restrooms and an entrance lobby overlooking Pine Lake. The new addition, which was built with funding from the Office of the President, greatly expands Pine Lake’s capacity to support academic classes, workshops, contra dances, and other student activities and public events.

In keeping with Pine Lake’s goal of modeling sustainable technologies, the new addition features a Clivus Multrum composting toilet system, funded by Friends of Pine Lake donations. In the self-contained Clivus system, solid wastes are composted with pine shavings and liquid wastes are stored. Given the building’s proximity to Pine Lake and ecologically sensitive wetland areas, the system provides an environmentally appropriate waste management solution.