Utah State University Opens Ecofriendly Wetland Center

The newest building at the Utah Botanical Center is also among the most environmentally friendly structures in the state. Wetland Discovery Point, which will be the home of many education programs at the Utah Botanical Center (UBC), is was designed and built to qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification, the highest ranking awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. There are currently just 94 Platinum certified buildings in the United States and none are in Utah.

The 3,200 sq. ft. building- designed by Salt Lake City-based AJC Architects and built by Big-D Construction-and the surrounding wetland will be primarily used as the center of activity for UBC field trips. More than 4,000 school children visit the UBC each year on field trips that explore topics like wetland ecology, energy conservation, wise water use, horticulture, water quality and wildlife biology.

At the building's dedication, architect Jill Jones explained some of the features that make Wetland Discovery Point an outstanding example of sustainable design and construction. The roof design mimics the wings of creatures that live in the surrounding wetland, and gathers rain and snow that is channeled into a cistern. The harvested water will be used to flush toilets and irrigate the landscape. Low water use fixtures in the building and drought-tolerant plants around it will require 30% less water than would be used by more traditional plumbing and landscaping.

Because the sun is lower in the sky during winter months, the angle of the roof allows sunlight to strike a large concrete wall in building which releases heat into the classroom space, but the roof overhang shades the wall in the summer. All the wood used is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council which monitors the forestry practices of lumber companies and certifies those that use sustainable timber management.

Construction crews sorted waste materials and ultimately recycled 95% of the construction waste, Jones said. A solar hot water heater will reduce energy use and a number of solar panels will eventually be in place to power the building and even feed electricity back to the grid.

The building puts visitors in the wetland, part of it overhanging the edge of one of the UBC's ponds that is visible from I-15. Jones pointed out that the design focuses attention on the outdoors even when visitors are inside. Care was also taken to minimize light pollution from the building and its outdoor lighting.

Utah State University President Stan Albrecht thanked the state legislature, the Utah Division of Water Quality, Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation Commission, Kaysville City and numerous private donors for their financial support of Wetland Discovery Point, which he called an exciting project in a troubled time.

"We are in turbulent times," Albrecht said. "We are witnessing an economic crisis in the financial and housing markets, with credit, the list goes on and on. Many of us wake up every morning wondering if we will find the bottom of all of this soon. But when we see projects like this, we see the future. We see positive things that will benefit us and our children."

Albrecht said the new facility will allow the UBC to greatly increase the number of children it can serve on field trips, in addition to providing new opportunities for USU students and community involvement.

Click here to see construction photos