John J. Willaman Education Center

Jenkins Arboretum has long been an advocate of sustainable use of the earth’s resources and responsible environmental stewardship. This was made undeniably clear in April of 2009 with the opening of the new John J. Willaman Education Center.  Under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, the Education Center has earned a Gold designation, the second highest green building award.

The U.S. Green Building Council bases its LEED Green Building Rating System – a voluntary, consensus-based national standard, on points that quantify a building’s “greenness.”  Building “green” means that the design, construction, and eventual operational practices significantly reduce or eliminate the negative impact on our environment.  Making the building “green” includes: site planning that is sensitive to the natural landscape, safeguarding water and ensuring water efficiency, encouraging the use of renewable energy, conservation of materials and resources, and pristine indoor environmental quality. These elements ensure that green buildings save money in operating costs and allow the occupants to be more productive and healthier.

The former building was “cocooned” into the new building rather than being demolished. The new Education Center incorporates a roof rainwater collection system for irrigation of the nursery and Green Ribbon native plant garden, geo-thermal HVAC system, and water-saving restroom fixtures. In addition, ground source heat pumps, tank-less water heaters, dual-flush toilets and energy saving appliances significantly reduce energy and water consumption.

A solar power system with photovoltaic panels will be installed on the roof. The gull-wing roof was designed with louvers for winter solar gain and summer cooling. As many trees as possible were preserved around the building to add to the cooling effect in the summer. The positioning of the building optimizes exposure to the sun, allowing as much natural light as possible to flood the interior and take advantage of solar energy to help heat the building. Extensive windows allow for abundant natural light and excellent views of the woodland garden. Carefully designed lighting encourages safety while minimizing glare and reducing light pollution.

Many of the building’s green elements are not so obvious.  Our visitors will not be able to see that subsurface stone beds allow storm water to infiltrate the ground rather than discharge into the stream or the town sewer. Indigenous plants have been used for the surrounding landscaping, reducing the need for irrigation.  The building materials used in construction were regionally manufactured and purchased from suppliers within 300 miles of the project. All of the steel is recycled steel and all construction waste was separated and recycled as much as was feasible.

While most LEED certified buildings are large, governmental, commercial or university initiatives, the John J. Willaman Education Center was a relatively modest project.  As an environmental institution we will continue to develop ourselves as a model in our community for the benefit and education of all.