U.S. Water News Online
EUREKA, Mo. — Washington University has unveiled a building it hopes to have recognized as one of the greenest structures in North America.
The Living Learning Center looks something like a souped-up log cabin, combining both wood harvested from trees on the property with the latest advances in environmentally friendly design.
It's located at the university's Tyson Research Center, which is a 2,000-acre property where environmental research is done about 20 miles from the school's main campus in St. Louis. The new, 2,900-square-foot Living Learning Center is still in the final stage of construction, but was designed to be a zero-net-energy and zero-wastewater building.
The center is being built to meet the “living building” challenge, developed by the Cascadia Region Green Building Council. A building must meet 16 requirements to be considered a “living building.”
No building has met the standard yet, which is considered the world's most stringent green building rating. The standard is not meant to compete with the better known LEED rating system, but as an additional way to encourage green building design and construction.
“Every nail, every screw, every light fixture had to be scrutinized to meet the standards,” said the Tyson Research Center's director, Jonathan Chase. The Living Learning Center outside of Eureka can't be deemed a “living building” until the university is able to show it has met the necessary requirements for a year.
Chase pointed out unique aspects of the roughly $1.6 million building.
“The hope is that it would change the ways we think about things, not only water and energy but the materials, how we buy them or how we use them,” he said.
Heavy construction materials had to come from within a 250-mile radius in order to reduce carbon emissions associated with transporting materials.
Structural wood for the building came from Arkansas, but wood on the building's exterior and floors came from the Tyson property itself. Some of the trees had fallen in storms. Others were cut down, like some Eastern Red Cedars, as part of larger efforts to restore biodiversity on the property.
One side of the center's roof is filled with solar panels to provide electricity for the building. The university said the building is so efficient it will be able to provide some energy to the electric grid.
Rainwater from the roof will be collected in a cistern, be purified and once it's used in a sink, will pass through a garden filled with native wetland plants and reeds, before returning to the water table.
Rather than standard flushing toilets, the center has composting toilets, which are part of a system that will collect waste and break it down.
The building, which includes an outdoor deck that overlooks a wooded area, will be used for offices and classrooms for research and teaching. It will be used this summer for a high school outreach program co-sponsored by the Missouri Botanical Garden's Shaw Nature Reserve.
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