Bagley Outdoor Classroom

The Bagley Outdoor Classroom, designed by Duluth architect David Salmela and contracted by UMD’s own Facilities Management, opened in June 2010. The Bagley Outdoor Classroom was the first building in the University system to be certified by LEED at the platinum level.


For years, students learning or conducting research in the Bagley Nature Area had no permanent structure to accommodate their needs. But the opportunity was sought in a volleyball court that had fallen into disuse, and research in the Bagley Nature Area found a home (a feature of the Bagley Outdoor Classroom’s sustainability, building on a previously developed site). The original plan called for a modest building, but it eventually evolved into the model of sustainable construction that it is today.

The Bagley Outdoor Classroom demonstrates leadership in energy efficiency, renewable energy, wastewater treatment, stormwater management, passive heating, natural ventilation, water efficiency, local and renewable materials, and a healthy indoor environment. The building will continue to serve as a learning tool and model of sustainable design and construction in Northern Minnesota.


Energy efficiency and conservation was an area of focus during design and construction of the Bagley Outdoor Classroom. The design is expected to reduce the energy needs of the building by 90% and was built to meet standards for Passivhaus certification:

  • The building has an airtight envelope, allowing just 0.47 air changes per hour (as opposed to 5.0 for a typical home).
  • Structurally Insulated Panels (SIP), produced with 100% recycled material in a South Dakota factory, surround the building; the panels are thick and have few thermal breaks where heat loss and condensation can occur.
  • Large, triple pane, south facing windows provide the building with plenty of natural sunlight as well as passive solar heating during the winter months. Additional natural lighting is provided by solar tubes in the ceiling.
  • The roof of the building uses multiple methods in its contribution to the building’s efficiency. The lower tier is a green roof that helps to insulate the building (as well as curb stormwater runoff), while the upper section is painted white to reflect excess sunlight.
  • A grid-tied 6kW solar array was mounted on the exterior wall between the sections of the roof helps to reduce the building’s non-renewable energy needs to almost nothing over the course of a year.
  • Since air changes are minimized, mechanical ventilation is critical; the ventilation system exchanges 85% of the heat from outgoing air to the fresh air brought into the building.

Materials and Resources

  • Built in recycling bins ensure a dedicated space for proper waste disposal.
  • Construction waste from the Bagley Outdoor Classroom was minimized through re-use and recycling; 88% of the building’s construction waste was diverted from landfills.
    • 17% of the building materials contain recycled content.
    • 35% of the building materials have been manufactured within 500 miles of the project site.
    • 86% of the wood used was harvest from FSC certified forests.
    • 15% of the project materials have been reclaimed.

Other Features

  • An outdoor patio was built to immerse students in the Bagley nature center experience. The pavers used for the patio were previously recovered from walkways outside of the Darland Administration Building.
  • Facilities Management provides firewood for the patio area. Please help to protect the Bagley Nature Area by burning the firewood provided; transporting firewood to the Bagley Nature Area can aid in the spread harmful invasive species.

Additional Resources

  • To learn more about the Bagley Outdoor Classroom, read along on a Virtual Tour.
  • Press Release for the Bagley Classroom grand opening.
  • Bagley Classroom Use Policy.
  • UMD Faculty and Staff can reserve the Bagley Outdoor classroom for classes or events through the Astraware Scheduling system.

Awards and additional info

  • 2010 AIA MN Honor Award recipient
  • 2012 AIA Committee on the Environment (AIA-COTE) Top Ten Green Project Award winner
  • Designed to meet PassivHaus™ standards
  • In February 2011, Facilities Management staff were recognized at UMD’s Outstanding Service Award Ceremony for their work on this project.