AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects
Warren Skaaren Environmental Learning Center at Westcave Preserve
(Westcave Preserve Env. Learning Center)
|Photo credit: Greg Hursley|
- Location: Round Mountain, TX
- Building type(s): Interpretive Center
- New construction
- 3,030 ft2 (281 m2)
- Project scope: a single building
- Rural setting
- Completed March 2003
The building opened to the public on the vernal equinox, March 22, 2003.
The Warren Skaaren Environmental Learning Center functions as a visitor center and classroom space for public and school programs at Westcave Preserve, a 30-acre nature preserve in south Texas. The building had to be able to accommodate groups of 150 or more students while hosting visitor groups of one to ten people and serving as a community center. The project goal was to foster respect and stewardship of the natural environment, support environmental education, and preserve the sanctuary into the future.
This project was chosen as an AIA Committee on the Environment Top Ten Green Project for 2006. It was submitted by Jackson & McElhaney Architects, in Austin, Texas. Additional project team members are listed on the "Process" screen.
The challenge of environmental education is to simplify the complexities of the natural sciences and ecology to the concepts of protecting the quality of air, water, and soils and conserving energy. As such, the design of the structure was conceived as a three-dimensional textbook. The architectural expression of the building is a framework for analogies between building materials and systems and how they mimic or model natural systems.
A rainwater collection and filtration system demonstrates water quality and water cycles. Wetlands and composting toilets show recycling of materials in nature. Building orientation, a weather station, ventilation fans, and operable windows relate to air currents and indoor air quality. Stone walls illustrate fossils of local sedimentary stones. Energy systems such as a photovoltaic array, ground-source heat pumps, daylighting, good insulation, overhangs, attic fans, and efficient lighting are integrated into the building. An interactive panel shows how these energy systems can be controlled to balance energy demands with incoming solar power.
An aperture in the ceiling allows sunlight to mark the seasons on a meridian line and sky map embedded in the terrazzo floor. The floor also illustrates "nature's numbers," such as the Fibonacci series, golden rectangle, logarithmic curve, and form of a 90-million year old ammonite.
Owner & Occupancy
- Owned and occupied by Westcave Preserve, Corporation, nonprofit
- Typically occupied by 0 people, 4 hours per person per week; and 150 visitors per week, 4 hours per visitor per week
Integrated team, Design charrette, Green framework, Wildlife habitat, Wetlands, Indigenous vegetation, Stormwater management, Water harvesting, Efficient fixtures and appliances, Wastewater treatment, Insulation levels, Glazing, Passive solar, On-site renewable electricity, Durability, Recycled materials, Local materials, Connection to outdoors, Daylighting, Natural ventilation, Low-emitting materials