Plans are being unveiled to build a sophisticated environmental learning center in Cedar Rapids that would be able to generate all of its own power, along with a butterfly house and an expanded trail system.

The Indian Creek Nature Center operates out of an old dairy barn, but executive director John Meyers says the proposed new building would be one of the most sustainable in the state. “We’re going to go after a certification called the Living Building Challenge, which is much different than LEED,” Meyers says. “We’re going to be the second and the largest building within the state of Iowa to be Net Zero. We’re going to produce 100-percent of the electricity we use on-site.”

More than $4 million has been raised toward the seven-million dollar goal. If that goal is met by year’s end, Meyers says construction on the new building could begin next year. “What this would really allow us to do is expand our programming quite a bit,” Myers says. “We’re going to be expanding the number of hiking trails we have. We’re going to put some new prairies in. We also have a new butterfly house that will help with our monarching program and allow us to increase our protection of monarchs.”

To qualify as a “Living Building,” the center will be built using sustainable materials, collect rainwater and repurpose it, and generate all the energy it uses through rooftop solar panels. The current center, in the 1930s-era barn, would be repurposed as a destination for hikers on the trail system.