For over 50 years, Earthplace’s mission has been to educate the community about nature and the environment and ways to preserve, protect and enjoy them. But as dedicated as it was to the environment, the organization’s multi-use main building had fallen behind as a green facility. To change that, Westport’s Green Villages Initiative commissioned a sustainability master plan from Fifield Piaker Elman Architects that makes the structure itself a teaching opportunity on energy efficiency and planet friendly initiatives.
The organization is set on 62 acres that includes woodlands, wetlands and an extensive network of trails. Describing itself as “The Nature Discovery Center,” its comprehensive program offers nature displays, wildlife dioramas and an ecology center; a children’s viewing collection of small mammals, birds, insects and reptiles; and a wide variety of programs and events. Under the direction of John Horkel, Ph.D., the facility expanded three times over as many decades and undertook renovations to meet community demand for programs.
The sustainability master plan looks at how well the facility currently performs and examines the building envelope, energy and ventilation systems, and green operations. Its implementation assures that the structure will function with optimum efficiency while embodying its mission.
The plan’s three-phases of improvements consist of a first phase that recommends a tighter building shell; double-glazed, operable windows; a green roof system with planters; and an array of photo-voltaic cells. The second calls for upgrading the mechanical systems, and phase three looks at green operations. The result is that Earthplace is offering another important lesson on preserving the environment.