Environmental Nature Center
With a limited budget, but larger than life dreams, a distinct, environmental and cost effective solution creates a new 9,000 SF front door for an existing and respected nature center in Newport Beach.
Effective site placement and orientation, material selection, storm water management and water conservation techniques provide the most sustainable solution possible for the limited budget available. The inclusion of a roof top photovoltaic array provides the all of the onsite power requirements for the facility: a net zero building.
Simple green strategies allow the buildings to be naturally conditioned eliminating heating and cooling systems. Water is conserved and treated through the use of bio swales and retention ponds, indigenous drought tolerant plant selections and the implementation of waterless urinals and low flow fixtures.
This facility received its LEED Platinum certification from the USGBC in November 2008, making it the first in Orange County California.
Existing in the City of Newport Beach for over 35 years, the Environmental Nature Center is recognized as a leader in education providing opportunities for increasing understanding and appreciation of the natural world. With a limited budget, but larger than life dreams, a distinct, environmental and cost effective solution creates a new front door for the facility.
The project consists of two distinct buildings defining the public and private aspects of the center and totaling almost 9,000 SF. The facility was designed to co-exist with the site and the delicate habitat that has been cultivated throughout the years.
Effective site placement and orientation, material selection, storm water management and water conservation techniques provide the most sustainable solution possible for the limited budget available. However, a generous donation led to the inclusion of a roof top photovoltaic array which provides all of the onsite power requirements for the ENC.
Despite the inclusion of the solar panels, the project still maintained a tight overall budget. Green design began to be perceived as a cost savings strategy rather than an increase to the overall cost of the project.
Heating and cooling systems were eliminated from the project allowing the spaces to be conditioned naturally through simple natural ventilation techniques.
The East/ West access of the plan and the unique building shape provide optimum solar orientation as well as an ideal system for encouraging natural breezes to flow through the high volume spaces. The interiors are heavily penetrated to increase air and natural light penetration.
A dramatic 25’ high, north facing glass wall allows natural light to filter through the public spaces of the building while also incorporating automatic dimming systems saving both energy and cost.
An exterior breezeway between the two buildings is designed to accommodate large group entry while and also promote additional air movement as well as maximum infiltration of natural daylight.
Bio swales and retention ponds treat storm water while the landscape pallet is an extension of the indigenous California plant selections already in place on the site.
Composite wood made from saw dust and resin and dual paned, Low E glass define the building skin.
Once inside the public facility of the ENC, a dramatic high volume lobby is used for greeting and orientation with the main museum space and divisible learning lab directly adjacent.
The continuous sloping ceiling is made from exposed formaldehyde free plywood left natural therefore eliminating wood stains and paints.
Millwork is comprised of organic board made from pressed wheat and paper.
Low VOC paints and adhesives were used exclusively throughout the interior, and insulation was derived from recycled denim.
The facility received its LEED Platinum certification from the USGBC in November 2008, making it the first in Orange County California. The project is a model in the community showcasing responsible environmental practices and the marriage of sustainability and good design principals in creating a dynamic and organic architectural statement.
Narrative for “Saving By Design” Awards
Given the size of the project and limited budget, sustainability became the inspiration for appropriate and cost-effective design solutions to meet the client’s goal for a LEED Platinum facility. The design team focused on effective site placement/building orientation, material selection, storm water management and water conservation, as well as eliminating many of the heating, cooling and lighting systems that might be installed in more typical facility.
The East/ West plan and unique building shape provide optimum solar orientation as well as encouraging natural breezes to flow through the high volume spaces. The design team went one step further and eliminated HVAC systems from the project. The building form supports a 40 kW PV system when paired with the building’s conversation measures 4 creates a “net zero energy” facility.
A 25’ north facing glass wall allows daylight into the building, which incorporates daylight responsive dimming lighting control systems to conserve energy. The sloping ceiling is exposed formaldehyde free plywood left natural without stains or paint. The interior design follows a “do less” attitude where structure becomes finish ceiling, concrete floor slabs are exposed and interior partitions are minimized in order to allow natural ventilation and daylight to penetrate into the educational spaces.
The goal for the design of the facility was to create a flexible and adaptable series of spaces which could evolve with the adjacent nature center. The large classroom and museum spaces were kept open and simple in plan with movable walls defining the nature of the spaces. The museum itself was designed as a flexible open space that could be reconfigured depending on the nature of future exhibits and systems.
Energy Efficiency Achievements
The building is oriented with the majority of fenestration on the North and South elevations.
- The project achieves 45% interior lighting energy savings, compared to Title-24 standards, through reduced lighting power density, daylight responsive controls, and occupant sensors.The project achieves an 80% reduction in exterior lighting power compared to Title-24 standards.
- The project is naturally ventilated with no mechanical heating or cooling system.
- Exhaust fans are installed for the restrooms, copy room, and janitor’s closet to assure appropriate exhaust fo these spaces. A 40-KW grid-connected photovoltaic system is mounted on the pitched south-facing roof.
- Energy modeling (using EnergyPlus software) indicated that the ASHARE 90.1-2004 Base Case would consume 69 kBTU/sf-yr (site energy). The energy modeling predicted that the building as designed would consume 30 kBTU/sf-yr with the PV system outputting 26.6 kBTU/sf-yr for net site energy use of 3.4 kBTU/sf-yr — 95% less than the ASHARE 90.1 Base Case calculation.
- The initial 6 months of utility bills indicate that the project in operation is using only 8.1 kBTU/sf-yr (far less than predicted by the software analysis) while the PV system is outputting 20.1 kBTU/sf-yr.
- To date, the project is a net energy exporter, producing approximately 2.5 times the renewable energy that it consumes.
1601 16th Street
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Bo Glover, Executive Director
Rick D’Amato, Principal Designer
Orange County Chapter
23686 Birtcher Drive
Lake Forest, CA 92630
Mr. Rob Culp
5161 California Avenue, Suite 100
Irvine, CA 92617
1900 E. Warner Avenue, Suite 1-O
Santa Ana, CA 92705