Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center


Modeling Sustainable Technologies and Building Solutions

Wolf Ridge is a residential learning center occupying 2,000 alpine-like acres of Finland, Minnesota, in an area of the North Shore of Lake Superior. One of the largest environmental learning facilities in the country, Wolf Ridge is host to over 15,000 students and family visitors each year. The organization’s primary mission is “Developing a citizenry that has the knowledge, skills, motivation and commitment to work together for a quality environment.” This is accomplished by modeling sustainable technologies and behaviors into the teaching philosophy and into building infrastructure as the 25 year-old campus initiates improvements and renovations.

The need for energy efficient thermal building ideas is magnified by the severe climate conditions the region experiences: winter temperatures can drop into the - 50°F range and soar to over 100°F in the summer; annual snowfall can accumulate over 100 inches. Working in concert with the five other ELC facilities in MN, funding was granted to the group by the Minnesota Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund, to ‘reduce their carbon footprints and disseminate energy education.’ Replacing some of the old leaky doors was a perfect fit for the needs of the Wolf Ridge campus and the metrics of the grant.

“We had a three point challenge: securing heating efficiency and thermal savings; modeling sustainable technology, and teaching conservation practices,” notes Smerud. Architect Rachel Wagner, of Wagner Zaun in Duluth explains, “I did a calculation about thermal properties and heat transfer,and a sketch that illustrated how much they might save, and that helped convince the founders.”

Originally eyeing another door design for the retrofit, her research on the Trio-E openings convinced her to model the sketch with ASSA ABLOY Group brand products, including the Ceco Trio-E door, Curries thermal break frame, McKinney hinges, and Pemko threshold, with Rockwood pulls and accessories, Corbin Russwin locks and Norton door closers. The complete assembly has been tested to improve building envelope thermal and air leakage performance. The science center opening alone showed an annual kBtu reduction of 1,792 in leakage and conductive loss according to an independent audit by Conservation Technologies, using before and after blower tests and imaging, providing a significant reduction in heating costs and carbon emissions.

“They fit with our mission. The kids get excited; some of these kids are comparing the doors – we really get a lot of joy out of that.” Energy efficient, durable in any high traffic setting, green-building compatible and beautiful, Trio-E openings strike the right aesthetic tone at Wolf Ridge. “They fit in beautifully. They work well with the feel and look of the institution, “says Smerud. “And the hardware is really nice, “adds the architect. Now installed in five openings across campus, the director is happy to report, “Mission accomplished! We wanted to walk through the correct steps of conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy with this project, and demonstrate these concepts to the students. These doors helped us do that.”

ASSA ABLOY’s integrated opening solutions met a complicated challenge on all fronts. They are performing beyond expectations against the severe weather, reaching the high standards for teaching conservation practices and green, sustainable building ideas, promoting energy efficiency and reducing the carbon footprint at Wolf Ridge.

Savings kBtu kWh
Annual energy savings from reduced air leakage 558 164
Annual energy savings from reduced conductive losses 1,234 362
Total annual energy savings 1,792 526
Estimated Annual CO2 Emission Reductions Due to
Energy Savings
947 lbs    -

For a 300 door building complex retrofit,Trio-E energy efficient openings deliver:

  • $20K in annual energy savings
  • 142 tons annual CO2 reduction, the equivalent to removing 30 vehicles from the road!