The Wetlands Park Nature Center at the Clark County, Nev., nature preserve is a 30,000-sq-ft education and visitor center propped up above the existing grade.

Image by Kirk Gittings
Wetlands Park Nature Center & Exhibits in Las Vegas, Nev.
Image by Kirk Gittings
Wetlands Park Nature Center & Exhibits in Las Vegas, Nev.

According to one judge, "The unique program for this project made it stand out compared to the other entries in this category."

The design called for elevating the center 12 ft above the 100-year floodplain in order to limit flood risks, minimize any impact on the wetlands and to make the facility seem to "float" above the floodplain. The raised elevation also provides 360-degree views of the surrounding nature preserve and allows animals to cross the site under the building.

"The thing that jumped out to me with this project is how intricate it was and the fact that they did not have a foundation to work with," adds another judge. "This is one project that I have spent time at and it turned out really nice, blending in well with the surrounding environment."

Throughout the pier and foundation construction process, the entire building site was dewatered, an effort that required determining the location of the dewatering wells and where the excess water could be directed.

Designed to meet LEED-Gold requirements, the building incorporates passive solar strategies, energy-efficient HVAC and recycled building materials. Landscaping is served by a temporary irrigation system that will be turned off after the plants are well-rooted.

The nature center was designed as three interconnected buildings, each accommodating one of the key program functions: exhibits, education and administration.

Besides the educational experience of the exhibits, the center provides classrooms, an auditorium and viewing decks overlooking the wetlands to teach visitors about the importance of desert wetlands.

The Wetlands Park has become a part of the lives of children in the Clark County School District, with many weekly visits scheduled throughout the school year. Tours of the Wetlands Nature Preserve will originate from the center, and some of the spaces/amenities may be rented out for other functions.

Wetlands Park Nature Center & Exhibits, Las Vegas

Key Players

Contractor B&H Construction Inc., Henderson, Nev.

Owner Clark County, Real Property Management Dept., Las Vegas

Lead Design Dekker/Perich/Sabatini Ltd., Albuquerque

Geotechnical Engineer Ninyo & Moore, Las Vegas

Civil Engineer Lochsa Engineering, Las Vegas

MEP Engineer MSA Engineering, Las Vegas

Structural Engineer Lochsa Engineering, Las Vegas