Designed to focus on environmental learning activities, the Visitor Activity Center is a remarkable building that hosts an open space designed for gathering, dining, meetings, lectures.
A key building feature is the use of reused, recycled or recyclable materials. Materials were selected that were durable, had long life spans, required little maintenance and had a low impact on the environment. Another building feature is the shingle cladding of the north façade seen as one approaches the building. These shingles, cut on site from old, discarded tires reclaimed from a nearby river, park grounds and other local sources, directly challenge users to think about environmental responsibility.
The Architect detailed how the Visitor Activity Center is focused on sustainable design, through Careful siting and orientation, thorough research, selection of materials, analysis and design of building systems.
In winter, building mass minimizes impact of prevailing winter winds. South-facing fenestration with long east/west orientation maximizes heat gain. The tinted thermal mass concrete slab provides passive solar heat. Roof profile maximizes solar penetration.
In summer, south roof overhang and East/west porches minimizes solar penetration. Low operable windows on east and west sides draw in cool air from shaded porches. High operable windows on the south elevation exhaust warm air from the building. Glazed south, east and west faces of the main space provide abundant natural daylight and connect users to the forest beyond.
The Visitor Activity Center is one of three projects that were awarded the 2009 CAE Educational Facility Design Award in the Excellence category. As explained by the architects: “It was designed to reflect its non-profit and governmental sponsor's commitment to the ideals of environmental stewardship”.
Approach view from north showing rubber shingle cladding fabricated from discarded tires
Detail of tire shingle wall, a great example of material reuse.
Photographs by Nic Lehoux, Christopher Barone, and THomas E. Solon, AIA.
All photographs and illustrations, as well as partial content are courtesy of the AIA