BLM Awarded LEED Gold for Excalante National Monument Science Center

August 28, 2007

The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) new visitor and science center at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has received Gold Certification in the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating program. The 13,000 square foot Escalante Science Center is earning recognition for its elegant design and healthy and comfortable indoor environment, as well as its energy efficiency, environmental sensitivity, and sustainability features.

Photo of the Escalante Science Center.
The Escalante Science Center, which is two structures separated by a patio and trellis, was designated a Federal Energy Saver Showcase in 2005.

Among the 42 green construction features that earned the building its distinction are rooftop swamp coolers that collect rainwater, recycled materials used in construction, daylighting, and a solar photovoltaic system that supplies 11 percent of the building's power. The center uses 40 percent less energy than a similar building of conventional construction.

BLM's goals for this facility from the beginning of the planning process were extraordinary energy efficiency and achieving a LEED rating. Trent Duncan of the Utah State BLM office requested design assistance for the project from FEMP in 2001, and the architecture and engineering firm Gillies Stransky Brems and Smith was chosen based on its ability to design buildings that are elegant and energy efficient.

FEMP-supported staff from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) worked with the design team to identify energy conservation strategies and equipment options, and later reviewed the firm's design and specifications. ORNL staff also constructed building simulation models based on American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) normal standards and the design to establish the center's LEED points for energy efficiency. Staff from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory provided technical assistance with the photovoltaic systems.

Skylights and interior and exterior light shelves in the Escalante Science Center reduce electrical lighting needs, and the interior lights adjust to the sunlight. Natural ventilation, operable windows, and materials low in volatile organic compounds contribute to a healthy indoor environment. Water-saving and reuse technologies reduce wastewater volume by 50 percent. A 7.5-kilowatt, grid-connected photovoltaic system generates 11 percent of annual energy needs; the remaining 89 percent is met through a green power purchase. These features, along with increased insulation, evaporative cooling, and high-efficiency boilers, account for the building's energy efficiency. Special care was taken at the Escalante site to use a previously disturbed area, and native vegetation is used for landscaping.

For more information, please contact Ed Pierce at 865-574-6369, or Kirby Wilcher at 865-574-0429.