Monday, February 14, 2011

Hartley Nature Center

On my last trip up to Duluth, MN I paid a visit to the Hartley Nature Center. The Hartley Nature Center has been around for quite a while, becoming a non-profit environmental education cooperative in 1987, but until the center building was completed in 2003 most of their work was done outside or from cars.
When it came time to build the center building the staff and Board of Directors wanted to make sure that the building would have as minimal impact on the environment as possible. So the building was built with many green design features. The building is heated primarily by a geothermal heating unit that uses warmth from the ground below to heat the building floor. The foundation of the building was built with insulated concrete forms, foam insulated concrete blocks, that help to hold the heat inside. Even the ventilation system has a heat recovery unit to make sure less energy is wasted.
The building was built in an East-West orientation to maximize the the amount of the building that would be exposed to the southern sun. A portion of the south wall, pictured above, is a solar wall. This wall uses the sunlight to heat the air which is then taken in by the building ventilation system.
The building was also designed to provide the maximum amount of natural lighting. This minimizes the amount of lighting that needs to be generated by electricity. On the afternoon that I visited the only areas that I saw that had lights on were the restrooms.
When electricity is needed much of it is generated through solar panels. The nature center has two solar arrays. There is a stationary array on the roof, which was covered with snow when I was there, and this tracking array which can turn to follow the sun through out the day. Any excess power that is generated flows back into the Duluth power grid, providing the nature center with energy credits and the area with more clean power.


Katie (Nature ID) said...

That's one of the most visually appealing nature centers I've ever seen. Glad to see MN is into green building, a bonus!

Sylvia K said...

A beautiful nature center it is! I do hope we see more of this type of green building in more states in the near future. Great post as always! Enjoy your week!!


Marja said...

I love that building. Nice how so much light comes in and what a lot of snow Brrr

eileeninmd said...

Great post on the green nature Center. It would be ncie to see more buildings like this one.

Kay L. Davies said...

This is great. I love to see ecologically sensitive buildings, and this one is a prime example. Geothermal heating and solar-generated electricity makes so much sense, I can't imagine why it isn't used more often. You just made my day!
-- K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

KaHolly said...

I wish more buildings were constructed with such forethought.