The new Southeast Wyoming Welcome Center, located just north of the Colorado-Wyoming state line off Interstate 25, offers much more than just restroom facilities to road-weary travelers. It also serves as a museum with interpretive displays, provides a new home for the Wyoming Office of Tourism and includes warehouse space for the Wyoming Dept. of Transportation.

Photo courtesy of The RMH Group
The buildings long axis allows for large amounts of daylight to enter the public areas and office spaces. Two hundred photovoltaic panels on the roof and south wall convert sunlight into power to supply much of the facilitys electricity.

The 27,000-sq-ft facility, which showcases sustainable design through clever integration of high-performance building systems and onsite renewable-energy technologies, officially opened its doors on October 15.

The design team worked closely with the project owners to deliver a highly sustainable and inviting building. It harnesses sunlight and wind to deliver nearly 40 kW of zero-emissions power—enough to offset more than half of the facility’s electrical demand.

Photovoltaic panels on the roof and walls generate approximately 27 kW of electricity while five onsite wind turbines provide the balance of renewable power.

The welcome center’s HVAC system was built around a ground-source heat pump system that utilizes the relatively constant temperature of the earth to provide efficient building heating and cooling and features more than 11 miles of heat-transferring geo-exchange coils buried beneath the 26.6-acre project site.

Thermal displacement ventilationa low-energy-use air distribution system in which incoming air originates low in the space and rises in thermal plumes to exhaust outlets at the ceilingwas implemented for the public and office portions of the facility. In addition to saving energy, thermal displacement ventilation enhances indoor air quality and thermal comfort for building occupants.

Daylight harvesting, which optimizes the amount of healthy natural light brought into building spaces while limiting the use of electric lighting, was enhanced by the welcome center’s long axis and relatively narrow width. High-efficiency electric lighting supplements natural daylight when necessary.

Denver-based AndersonMasonDale Architects served as the project’s prime design consultant, and Lakewood’s RMH Groupwas the mechanical-electrical engineer and lighting designer.

“The ultra-low-energy building design and onsite renewable-energy systems make this one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the country,” said Terry Autry, senior vice president of The RMH Group. “The welcome center will inform travelers about Wyoming’s history and vast natural resources while emphasizing environmental conservation through innovative design techniques.”