Indiana Nature Conservancy projects green in a new light
One might think that sustainability would be effortless for an organization founded on the beliefs of environmental conservation, but project facilitators at the Nature Conservancy quickly discovered that it takes more than green intentions to create an environmentally friendly building.
The Nature Conservancy’s goal of protecting the environment was kept at the heart of all project design efforts when creating the new facility in Indianapolis. The design team determined that the best way to meet the Nature Conservancy’s sustainability goals was to demolish the existing structure and rebuild, instead of renovate as originally planned.
The new building allows for a variety of sustainability projects including natural lighting, bio-retention systems, native plant life and green areas and renewable energy sources.
The building’s original north-south orientation significantly reduced natural lighting. The new structure, facing east-west, has optimal window and glass wall positioning throughout the structure to let in more natural light.
The building was also built closer to the street, allowing city lighting already in place to be used. Only one light was added to the parking lot, which reduces product, construction and lighting costs, as well as energy consumption.
Another method of conservation used was a bio-retention system, which eliminates water runoff into sewers and lakes, while reducing flood risks and creating a water source for plumbing and watering plants. The design team also used native and imported plants throughout the 1.2 acre property to further ensure that the Nature Conservancy was as green as possible.
When the project started, the site had a minimal amount of green. There were only two small patches of green surrounded by concrete. However, the native plants used make up one-third of the overall plant life and represent regions from across the state. They are being studied by botanical experts at the facility to examine how the plants react in an urban environment.
The green wall, which uses plants from the cliff regions of southern Indiana, is placed at an angle to let in natural light, while also serving as a pedestrian entrance.
The prairies created have easily accessible hoses, drawing water from the bio-retention system and are conveniently located for volunteer use.
Lastly, the building includes renewable energy sources like wind turbines and spirals, solar panels and geo-thermal technology.
The new site is USGBC (United States Green Building Council) LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified and hopes to be awarded the LEED Platinum certification, the highest level in the LEED V3 rating system.