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Tribal College Goes Ultra-Green with New Building

An article about the LEED platinum-certified math and science building at Blackfeet Community College
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It’s a first: the new math and science building at Blackfeet Community College in Browning, Montana is a trend-setter in the world of green technology.

The first tribal building in the nation to be awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum status, it has achieved the highest possible award of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Great Falls Tribune report published at

Ahm Ska Tos Po II Koh Kan, or South Wind Lodge, was built at a cost of $5 million and has 13,000 square feet of classrooms, labs, offices and meeting spaces on a single level.

“Our first goal was silver, but we realized we could reach high gold and we started pushing for platinum,” the Tribune quoted Terry Tatsey, chairman of the Blackfeet Community College facilities committee, as stating at a college ceremony.

The new math and science building at the Blackfeet Community College has been designed to reflect tradition and the future in its architecture, noted the Tribune and a LEED web site.

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The exterior of the building has an overhang reminiscent of tipi poles and is ornamented with circles representing constellations and with triangles at the base recalling the underground and underwater worlds of Blackfeet cultural history.

The building represents a practical laboratory as well as a “connection between the past and current understandings of math, science and survival,” Tatsey said. “We want the students to be able to learn from the building itself.”

The college’s math and science building will have energy efficiency 57 percent above minimum standards and green features that include optimized sun and wind exposure, high-performance insulating glass, automated blinds tied to light sensors, computer-controlled heating and cooling systems, water conservation, minimal pollutants in cabinetry and finishes, contractor recycling to spare waste going into a landfill, and other measures.

The LEED process is demanding, requiring a balanced and transparent committee structure, technical advisory groups for scientific consistency and rigor, stakeholder comment and review, and other components, according to the USGBC.

Students began classes in January in the new building in Browning, a community of about 8,500 members of the Blackfeet Nation adjacent to Glacier National Park.