The operators of the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids broke ground Thursday on a building that is going to be the only one of its kind in the world.
Nature Center director, John Myers, says they are calling it the “Amazing Space” project and it will follow the guidelines to meet the Living Building Challenge certification.
“It’s a program that exists in six different countries. It’s an advocacy and certification program, but it really focuses on what they call regenerative building. That means that beyond just doing positive things for green building, we are really trying to ensure that this project — this entire building that we are putting up — has no environmental impact,” Myers says. He says the goal is to be self-sustaining and produce all their own electricity on site through a project with Alliant Energy.
“And what this means is that even though we will be tied to the grid and we can push back extra energy we produce, we will not have a negative impact on the energy grid,” Myers says. “And it’s the same concept with water as well. We have to draw all of our water from our site and we have to return all of our water back to the site. So, we will have a well and we will filter and clean the water and make sure that it is going back into the aquifer cleaner than when we take it out.”
The water and energy requirements are part of some 25 standards the building has to meet to win the Living Building certification. “One of the most difficult standards is our materials selection. Every material that goes into this new building has to be spec’d down to the materials composition to show that there are no harmful materials in these products,” Myers explains. He says that takes a lot of research to find replacements for common items used in construction.
“Because all of your fire-proofing equipment has formaldehyde. Because all of your electrical switches have mercury in them,” Myers says. He says they also had to find an alternative to the PVC piping that is commonly used today in most buildings. The 12,000 square foot building is going to cost $6.9 million, and Myers says finding alternative construction materials added $1.5 million to the cost. He says they look to recover some of that cost in the savings from the sustainable operations.
“Not having to pay for water, not having to pay for electricity. Most of the time we will not be turning on the lights in the building because of the day lighting,” Myers says. “So we are able to realize some pretty quick returns on this investment because we are not having to spend a 20-thousand dollar electric bill to run the property.”
After months of planning, fundraising and looking for sustainable materials, the construction is underway. “We are planning a 12-month construction period and we expect to move into the new building in the summer of 2016,” Myers says. There are other projects planned in conjunction with the building.
“We’re also constructing a number of outdoor educational features, some outdoor classrooms as well as a land protection classroom, a butterfly hoop house, and those will all come on board throughout fall of 2016 and into 2017,” according to Myers. Myers says the Indian Creek Nature Center is the only nature center worldwide, and the first project within the state, to undertake the Living Building Challenge certification.
Find out more about the new building at: www.indiancreeknaturecenter.org.