• Disturbed wetlands were replaced, ensuring that any loss of wetlands functioning was replaced at a ratio of 1:1;

• Building function reflected its ultimate purpose, embracing views and creating educational opportunities onsite. For example, the Science Center includes an Aquatic Classroom where students can learn about wetlands ecology and a Creekside Classroom to learn about stream dynamics. Additionally, R.A. Nelson created a computer program—available onsite and online—that allows students to see exactly how the building mitigates environmental damage.  


Green Building 

The project team utilized the newest technologies, as well as some of the most tried-and-true building practices, such as:
• Building walls with straw bales, a highly-insulating material which has the added benefit of being a renewable resource;

• Building a structure whose envelope minimizes heat and energy loss through such things as high-tech, double-paned glass with suspended film, topping the floor with a slab thickened to provide a thermal mass for radiant heating and a roof assembly that includes a total of 18 in. of insulation;

• Utilizing technological innovations to satisfy the building’s energy needs. Examples include photovoltaic solar panels to create energy and a heat capture system that harvests excess heat from the electrical equipment room and transfers it to the domestic hot water;

• Employing some wise historical building techniques such as covering the roof with plants to manage drainage of precipitation and using local, beetle-killed pine as a building material. 

Learning Opportunities 
The project team took it to heart that part of the mission of Walking Mountains Science Center is to “inspire environmental stewardship through natural science education” and used the building design and the entire construction process as a learning tool toward that end.

Examples include:

• A special computerized “dashboard” that allows students to monitor the building’s energy use. “We didn’t think it would be useful to focus on creating a sustainable building if no one understands how it functions,” said Monroe. “Students are wondering, ‘How much water are we using?’ and ‘Are we being good stewards?’ We wanted to create a system for them to monitor those things. It’s very interactive—students can turn off some lights and compare how that affects energy output.”

• Students are responsible for ongoing ecological monitoring to ensure the long-term viability of the local habitat is maintained;

• Through this highly publicized building project and the opening of the new center, transmit ideas about sustainability to the larger community.