Iowa Nature Center Aims for Living Building Challenge

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The Indian Creek Nature Center, slated for completion in 2016, will attempt to achieve the Living Building Challenge, only four other buildings in the world have achieved Living Building status.

Locally based Solum Lang Architects will design the 11,600-square-foot nature center. In order to meet the Living Building Challenge, the new nature center must be a net-zero building and meet the challenges 20 of categories of measurable sustainability features.

Dubbed the “Amazing Space” project, the 290-acre nature center has had a commitment to sustainability since it began implementing green initiatives in land protection and restoration in October 2005. The decision to attempt Living Building speaks to an already established mission of sustainability at the Indian Creek Nature Center, according to center administrators.

“The future of Indian Creek Nature Center must lie within sustainable, net zero energy design and a continued commitment to outdoor education. Solum Lang has the innovative skills and passion to join our team and partner with us to achieve these goals for the next 40 years,” said John Myers, executive director of the Indian Creek Nature Center, in a statement.

The current nature center has operated in a dairy barn built in 1932 since 1973 and can no longer meet the capacity needs of the center that welcomes approximately 40,000 visitors annually. Additionally, the current building has no air conditioning, insufficient heating and is not ADA-compliant.

Many green practices are already incorporated into the current building. For energy efficiency, the building includes a tankless electric water heater, programmable thermostats, soy-based wall insulation and a photovoltaic electrical array in the center’s sunroom. A wetland wastewater treatment system is located behind the barns and a rain garden collects rainwater from the east side of the barn. Self-guided green tours of the building are offered to educate visitors on the implemented green practices.

The new building will be built a half-mile down the road on land already owned by the center. It will feature geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels and a rainwater harvesting system among other sustainable features. A 10-year master plan for the campus will also construct outdoor shelters, a butterfly hoop house and a viewing platform on the Cedar River.

The design of the new Indian Creek Nature Center is currently in the planning stages.