An Energy Efficiency Story: A Visitor Center Demonstrates Top Notch Energy Efficient Design
A nature conservancy visitor center demonstrates top notch
Building green was never considered optional for Kent and Kathy Lawrence. As the founders of Kickapoo/Mud Creek Nature Conservancy in Oregon, Ill., reducing the environmental footprint of their new Kickapoo Center was a priority from day one. The Lawrences wanted the center not only to serve as a meeting place and house educational displays for the conservancy, but also to set an example for cost-effective green home construction.
“We had a specific functional purpose from the beginning,” said Kent Lawrence. “We wanted to get low energy usage and modern day ambient conditions at real market prices.”
To design the 1,200-square-foot center, the Lawrences worked with fellow Oregon resident Victor Zaderej of Solar Homes, LLC. “What I’ve found is that a well insulated thermal envelope is really the most cost-efficient way to reduce energy use,” said Zaderej.
The thermal envelope begins below the ground with 8.5 inches of PlastiSpan EPS insulation beneath the center’s concrete slab. Advantage Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs) were used for the below grade walls. Zaderej then specified the 12-inch Insulspan Structural Insulating Panel (SIP) system for the walls and roof.
“The key was that we eliminated all the thermal shorts,” said Zaderaj. “SIPs and ICFs also do a really good job of sealing the home and stopping heat loss through air infiltration.”
Zaderej used the center as a testing ground for several innovative techniques to reduce energy use. His patent-pending solar roof uses a fan system to transfer the warm air beneath the building’s metal roof to a network of pipes in the concrete floor, where the heat is stored and slowly released. When combined with the efficiency of the super insulated building envelope, no furnace is needed, only a back up heat source powered by the center’s water heater.