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When a group of Boy Scouts arrives at The Summit, the Scouts’ new center in the mountains of West Virginia, all they want to learn about is the next fun adventure—whether it’s the zip line, climbing wall or skate park. Volume Inc. had the unenviable task of focusing these distracted young minds on environmental sustainability through its exhibition design for the site’s Sustainability Treehouse. The treehouse meets the standards of the Living Building Challenge: all its power comes from the sun and the wind, all the necessary water is rain-captured, and all its waste is recycled and reused. Pretty cool, but it’s not easy to make it more appealing than a skate park. Volume’s design succeeds by avoiding the dated, formulaic look of most exhibits and getting the information across in surprising and unexpected ways. A “rain chain” made of stainless steel camping cups transfers rainwater falling from the roof into a cistern below. A complete tree is suspended horizontally, showing its root structure and illustrating its own self-sufficiency in nature. A Rube Goldberg-esque rolling ball machine called the Recyclotron symbolically represents how a sustainable building should function, and scouts can power the machine by pedaling a custom-designed tricycle. All the information is funny and irreverent, a tone exemplified by Tales of a Deep Green Scout, a short Moonrise Kingdom-meets-An Inconvenient Truth film that plays in the Treehouse theater.

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