Our campus

Woodwell Climate Research Center is located in Falmouth, MA, originally known as Suckanessett. This is the traditional and sacred land of the Wampanoag people, who still occupy this land, and whose history, language, traditional way of life, and culture continue to influence our vibrant community. Over the past 150 years, this area has become a major center for ecological research, and Woodwell Climate has its roots in that community.

We were founded in 1985 as Woods Hole Research Center by renowned ecologist Dr. George Woodwell, who led the Center until 2005. Dr. Woodwell’s vision shaped our current campus, with rigor, innovation, and sustainability at the heart of the design process.

The Gilman Ordway Campus

Our campus is named in honor of Gilman Ordway to recognize his long-time support of the Center, and especially his generosity in providing significant initial funding for the purchase and construction of the current Gilman Ordway Campus on Woods Hole Road. Gilman Ordway joined the board of Woodwell Climate Research Center (then Woods Hole Research Center) in 1995 after meeting Dr. George Woodwell through their board participation at the World Wildlife Fund.

A portrait of Gilman Ordway.

Mr. Gilman Ordway (1925–2022) served on Woodwell Climate’s Board of Directors from 1995–2001.

Ordway was a major environmental philanthropist who left a meaningful legacy in conservation. In addition to supporting Woodwell Climate, he endowed several scholarships at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; served on the boards of many conservation organizations, and ran the 382-acre Fish Creek Ranch near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which is protected in a conservation easement by the Jackson Hole Land Trust.

Tom Stone, Foster Brown, George Woodwell, Walter Matherly, Katharine Woodwell, Skee (Richard) Houghton stand in front of Fisher House in an old black and white photograph.

left to right: Tom Stone, Foster Brown, George Woodwell, Walter Matherly, Katharine Woodwell, and Skee (Richard) Houghton stand outside Fisher House, where we rented office space at the time.

Our commitment to sustainability

What’s now Woodwell Climate Research Center started small, first in George and Katharine Woodwell’s basement, and then in rented office space in buildings across Woods Hole. When continued growth led to the need for a centralized office and lab space, we explicitly sought to create a facility attuned to the local natural and built environment, maximizing the use of recycled and recyclable materials and renewable energy, and minimizing energy waste and use of and exposure to toxic substances. It was critical to us that our new workplace be a model of renewable energy and conservation, and aligned with our values—to “walk the walk” of sustainability.

We don’t burn any gas, coal, or oil to heat and cool our campus. Both of our office buildings—the George M. Woodwell Building and the Carriage House next door—maximize indoor natural light to reduce the need for additional lighting, and use air source heat pumps for heating, cooling, and ventilation along with tight building envelopes to limit energy consumption and waste.

An aerial view of the Gilman Ordway campus, showing the solar panels on the building's roof.
Workers stand around the large blades of a wind turbine laying on the lawn, preparing for installation.

The wind turbine at our Gilman Ordway campus was installed in 2009.

We also installed over 130 solar photovoltaic panels on our rooftops and on our grounds, as well as a 100kW Northern Power wind turbine to generate renewable energy. Much of our 8 acres of land remain forested, while the area in front of the George M. Woodwell building is maintained as a wildflower meadow.

The original Hilltop Guest House, purchased in 1998 to become Woodwell Climate's campus.


Our main building, purchased in 1998, was originally constructed in 1877 as a summer residence and operated as an inn (the Hilltop House) during the 20th century. To transform the property into our campus, our staff worked with William McDonough + Partners in an iterative and science-based design process for a major renovation of the existing structure and design of a new wing, completed in 2003.

A worker stands next to a wooden wall, under construction to become the new wing of the Woodwell Climate main building.

Constructing the new wing of the George M. Woodwell building.








Our main building was named the George M. Woodwell Building in 2008, in honor of our founder, and has won awards for sustainable design:

  • One of the American Institute of Architects’ 2004 Top Ten Green Projects
  • First prize in the 2004 Northeast Green Building Awards (Places of Work: Small Buildings)
  • Honorable Mention in Environmental Design & Construction Magazine’s Excellence in Design Awards in 2004
A truck sits outside the Carriage House, undergoing renovations.
The up to date Carriage House, with a turtle sitting on the walk.

left: The Carriage House undergoing renovations.

right: The renovation of the Carriage House brought additional office and meeting space to our campus. / photo by Alex Naegele

The 100-year-old carriage house next door to the George M. Woodwell Building was purchased by Woodwell Climate in 2008, designed and retrofitted by South Mountain Company of Martha’s Vineyard, and opened as a second office building in 2010 to provide additional space for a growing staff.

We pursued the design of our buildings with the same rigorous, innovative approach we take to climate science, looking for every opportunity to make sustainable choices. There are so many examples of sustainable design around our campus that we couldn’t highlight all of them here—please enjoy this selection of fun facts about our building and campus design.

  • We specifically used wood from sustainably harvested forests or recycled wood throughout the interiors and exteriors of our buildings. This includes recycled ash from an abandoned factory in Baltimore and hard rock maple from the sustainably-managed Pingree Family Forests in Maine, who use Whole Tree Harvesting to ensure no wood is wasted.
  • To minimize winter heat and energy loss, the George M. Woodwell Building uses offset stud construction—where alternating studs are in contact with either the inner or outer walls, but never both, creating a thermal break between the building interior and exterior.
  • Several chestnut tree saplings were planted on the grounds in the spring of 2012 as part of the American Chestnut Foundation’s chestnut restoration project.
  • Motion sensors trigger our compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs so lights aren’t left on accidentally.
  • Our gravel parking areas are designed to capture vehicle contaminants and reduce water runoff; we also provide electric vehicle charging stations for our staff and visitors.
  • Some of the insulation in the Carriage House is made from recycled denim.
  • Our staff working in person at the Gilman Ordway Campus recycle paper, cans, bottles, and plastic, and compost raw fruits and vegetables to reduce food waste.