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Discovery center illustrates and teaches green living

Constructing a building with conservation and environment in mind is one thing. But having the building serve the purpose of educating future generations about “green living” makes it a win-win for the environmentally conscious.

That philosophy guided the park district in St. Charles, IL, through the design and construction of its Hickory Knolls Discovery Center. A LEED-certified building, Hickory Knolls Discovery Center met a rigorous set of criteria to satisfy the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design guidelines, and it now invites the public to attend tours and numerous classes or programs at the newly-opened nature facility to learn of the many ways to “go green” — at home, at work, any where, any time.

The discovery center hopes to get people thinking that small changes in habits can lead to positive impacts on our planet, even if it is as simple as starting a home recycling program or converting to CFL light bulbs.

The center itself was planned to be as sustainable as possible, from the installation of plants on the roof to all aspects meeting LEED specifications, which monitor such things as indoor air quality, water efficiency, and CO2 emissions.  Developed and administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington, D.C.-based, nonprofit consortium of building industry leaders, LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The program’s guidelines serve to minimize environmental impact of the construction process.

“The entire building in and of itself is an exhibit,” says Pam Otto , Manager of Nature Programs and Interpretive Services.  “We want to be a source of inspiration to people who are considering adopting green practices in their own lives.”

Some of the decisions made by the park district included leaving the concrete block and brick walls exposed.  “Choosing not to cover them with sheetrock and paint conserved resources,” says Otto, while an integral color concrete floor in many areas of the building did away with the need for carpeting or tile and the inherent adhesive materials necessary for their installation.

Homeowners looking to remodel an existing structure using environmentally-friendly designs and products, or those who are contemplating new construction, could learn much from a center like Hickory Knolls as a source of information and ideas to get any project off to the greenest start possible.


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