AN ECO-FRIENDLY BUILDING
Designed by Teng & Associates and constructed in partnership with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, the William F. Sherman, Jr. Interpretive Center at Lyman Woods is a 2,500 square foot building modeling green building materials and practices.
The northern third of the Lyman Woods preserve was at one time a wooded subdivision of 38 home sites. The Interpretive Center was strategically placed in the footprint of one of the homes to take advantage of existing utilities and a previously disturbed site, minimizing disturbance of the higher quality areas of the preserve. The low-profile building and prairie-planted green roof helps the building blend in with the natural terrain, and the building was oriented to maximize a southern exposure and solar gain. The parking lot and floor plan of the building were minimized to decrease disturbance and the resources needed to build and maintain the facility.
Materials include recycled exterior wall panels made by James Hardie(C). The building is framed with recycled steel supports and joists, and the floors are made of recycled concrete or low-VOC tiles made with recycled content. All paint in no-VOC paint and furniture used in the building is re-purposed from other offices, or made of recycled or salvaged materials.
Lighting throughout the building is energy efficient, with fluorescent or LED fixtures, and the heating and cooling systems are zoned and programmable so that only occupied spaces are heated or cooled. Each room except the restrooms have operable windows to provide natural light as well as natural ventilation. The toilets and sinks are equipped with motion sensors and water-saving fixtures to conserve water.
Perhaps the most visually striking feature of the Interpretive Center is the rooftop prairie. The green roof provides structural protection from winds, hail and UV radiation, improves insulating value, helps improve air quality, and reduces storm water run-off. Any rain that is not absorbed by the plants on the roof is collected in rain barrels on the front of the building and used for tasks like watering plants.
The four-layer green roof system includes (from the bottom-up): a waterproof roof cap made of recycled tires, a drainage mat that directs all water not absorbed by the soil or plants to the downspouts that lead to the rain barrels, a root reinforcement layer, and a 5-inch layer of lightweight and porous soil. The native plants selected for the green roof are naturally found on hilltop prairies, so they thrive in hot, dry environments and can adapt to grow in a thin layer of soil.
From Serviceberry to Sneezeweed, the native plants used in landscaping around the Interpretive Center provide habitat and food for wildlife and blend with the native plants throughout the preserve. Native plants, once established, require minimal maintenance and watering, and attract native wildlife that depend on the plants for food and shelter. The butterfly garden, certified as a Conservation at Home site by The Conservation Foundation, is planted with nectar producing flowering plants and butterfly host plants, including several species of milkweed. The garden attracts countless butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, moths and other beneficial insects. Demonstration gardens around the center exhibit native plants and shrubs that homeowners can use in their own yards.
Rain gardens, designed to hold water until it percolates into the ground, are planted with water-loving sedges, reeds, buttonbush, gentians and milkweed. Storm water that falls on the parking lot and sidewalks near the Interpretive Center drains to the rain gardens. Rain gardens help filter polluted water, decrease run-off and erosion, and recharge the water table.
A green building is not truly green without a green housekeeping program. A nature center can be a muddy place, so floors and surfaces that can be easily cleaned without harsh chemicals were chosen for the Interpretive Center. Environmentally sensitive cleaners and soaps that are non-toxic, biodegradable and petroleum-free are used in the Interpretive Center. All paper and plastic products purchased for use at the Interpretive Center are made of recycled materials and are reused or recycled. In addition to reusing and recycling, the Interpretive Center has an outdoor compost area for landscaping waste and an indoor vermicomposter for kitchen waste. A green housekeeping program helps ensure the health of our planet as well as the health of our visitors and program participants.