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Travis County - Home to one of AIA’s Top Ten Green Projects for 2006

by Worldchanging Austin local blogger, Sandra Burchsted

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Austin’s Westcave Preserve Environmental Learning Center was recently selected by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and its Committee on the Environment (COTE) to be one of the top ten examples of sustainable architecture and green design solutions that protect and enhance the environment. This is a prestigious award and the winning projects must meet a rigorous set of requirements which follow.

1. Sustainable Design Intent & Innovation
2. Regional/Community Design & Connectivity
3. Land Use & Site Ecology
4. Bioclimatic Design
5. Light & Air

6. Water Cycle

7. Energy Flows & Energy Future

8. Materials & Construction

9. Long Life, Loose Fit

10. Collective Wisdom & Feedback Loops.

The learning center serves as a gateway to the preserve and opens up to a terrace that is used for outdoor classrooms. The architects used materials such as recycled steel and a concrete floor made with recycled power plant fly-ash content to ensure the least amount of impact on the environment. The center also uses ground-source heating and cooling, a solar energy panel and a rainwater harvesting system.

Jury Comments: “This project is truly of its place. They looked at building as a teaching tool. The east and west faces are the long faces of this building… the eaves are a regional vernacular. There is pocket parking and a wooded site. The glass is high and well protected. They were careful to preserve the vegetation. They paid close attention to issues of thermal mass.?

If you haven’t visited the center you need to make the time. It is located on 30-acres of land that is unique to the Texas Hill County. You’ll discover that the preserve is teaming with numerous animal species including the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, lush vegetation, spring-fed waterfalls and natural limestone cave formations. On top of the opportunities to enjoy the beautiful hill country the learning center offers many exhibits such as the solar observatory, a geology learning wall, and a dark sky panel that explains the importance of and ways to protect the dark sky as a natural resource. It also offers school programs, teacher training, Girl Scout programs, and nature photography to name a few.

For more information:
Westcave Preserve

AIA's Top Ten Green Projects for 2006

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