I recently toured the new, 25,000 sq. ft., LEED-platinum-certified home of The Robinson Nature Center in Columbia, Maryland, and was impressed by its 3,000 sq. ft. green roof, underground geothermal heating/cooling system, porous pavement parking lot, solar panels, and innovative water conservation methods.
These things didn’t happen by chance.
Key stakeholders and design professionals worked together from conception through completion to create a center which is three stories tall and consists of indoor interactive exhibits and outdoor interpretive trails. Many details and features had to be worked out in committee — some of which required compromises between competing agendas. For example, a building orientation decision helped minimize the building’s impact on the surrounding topography in lieu of maximizing solar photovoltaic opportunities.
Not surprisingly, the facility recently won a Wintergreen Award for Excellence in Green Building from USGBC Maryland.
Cork flooring was installed and received LEED credit as a readily renewable material (made from plants that are harvestable in 10 years or less). To my surprise, linoleum (this is not your mother’s linoleum) flooring also qualified as a sustainable material because it is made of completely natural materials which come from readily renewable sources and is 100% biodegradable.
The intensive green roof and porous-pavement parking lot allowed LEED credit for open space and storm water management. Both features led to other synergies such as reducing the heat island effect.
Design innovations include a system of etched and glazed windows with intermittent framing that prevent bird strikes while achieving sustainability goals.
Since many of the building’s features are new to the staff as well as the general public, education is needed on topics that range from caring for native plantings en masse, maintaining porous pavement and using and cleaning waterless urinals.
As I was returning to my vehicle to go home, I was especially impressed with the porous parking lot. I didn’t have to step over any puddles of standing water!