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McColl Pond Environmental Learning Center

The latest addition to Savage’s Community Park aims to connect people to nature in ways they previously had not considered. At the McColl Pond Environmental Learning Center, visitors can see sustainable design at work and take away ideas for use at home or in their business.

The building, which celebrated its grand opening last month in conjunction with Arbor Day, was constructed with recycled materials and natural products. The interior is heated and cooled by the earth’s energy. Exterior features include cedar siding that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council; a green roof with more than 19,000 drought-resistant plants; numerous raingardens; and permeable soils to absorb precipitation. Pervious pavers and concrete also filter storm water to minimize impacts on our lakes and streams. Native prairies restored several years ago were left undisturbed during the construction period so as not to disturb the habitat of various species calling McColl Pond home.

The latest addition to Savage’s Community Park aims to connect people to nature in ways they previously had not considered. At the McColl Pond Environmental Learning Center, visitors can see sustainable design at work and take away ideas for use at home or in their business.

The building, which celebrated its grand opening last month in conjunction with Arbor Day, was constructed with recycled materials and natural products. The interior is heated and cooled by the earth’s energy. Exterior features include cedar siding that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council; a green roof with more than 19,000 drought-resistant plants; numerous raingardens; and permeable soils to absorb precipitation. Pervious pavers and concrete also filter storm water to minimize impacts on our lakes and streams. Native prairies restored several years ago were left undisturbed during the construction period so as not to disturb the habitat of various species calling McColl Pond home.

The 5,828-square-foot Environmental Learning Center is expected to be the first LEED certified building in Scott County – Minnesota’s fastest growing county – once all paperwork is complete. The project had been a vision for the City of Savage for decades, but funding the plan proved elusive. In 2007, the Jeffers Foundation, a private, non-profit organization, approached the City with a $500,000 grant. Officials jumped at the opportunity. Calling upon other community members, private businesses and its own funds, the City set to work to turn the concept into reality.

From start to finish, environmental features were woven into the project wherever possible. The ELC sits where an impervious, asphalt parking lot once existed. A local contractor donated his services to grind up the asphalt and use it as a base for the site’s parking lot. Geothermal wells allow heat from the earth to warm and cool the building. Additionally, the ELC was designed and situated with the seasons of the year and solar energy in mind. Windows, sun shades and rolling screens maximize heat from the sun in cool months and minimize it in warm months. A Tulikivi wood stove inside the main lobby uses the unique properties of soapstone to provide another heating option.

Like the building’s exterior, the walls of the ELC also were formed from wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, as well as with wall board made from wheat fiber. A glance upward provides further proof of the environment’s presence with the visible appearance of aspen fibers in the ceiling panels. Furthermore, recycled, renewable and regionally produced materials were used when possible. This is evident through classroom cabinets that are made from sunflower seeds and countertops made from recycled laundry detergent bottles. Low-emitting paints, adhesives, and composite boards were used to minimize the air contaminants coming from building materials. Stained concrete floors are in place in lieu of carpet, further reducing the amount of pollutants entering the air. Throughout the construction period, contractors took great care to reduce waste by sorting and recycling materials.

“We really want the McColl Pond Environmental Learning Center to be a model for sustainable design,” said City Administrator Barry Stock. “We expect this to be a place where builders and homeowners can come see environmentally friendly products, mechanisms and features that they might be able to use in their own projects.”

Now complete, the ELC is continually in use by school groups, civic organizations, and members of the public. Two classrooms provide a formal space for the environmental education program the city has long-shared with the schools. The city’s Parks and Recreation Division uses the building regularly for programs and events. A large community room, with space for 100 people, overlooks McColl Pond and is available for rent to the public for meetings or anniversary, birthday, graduation, informal wedding and other celebrations. Capacity can be expanded in the summer through the use of an outdoor covered patio, which also can hold 100 people. And after the crowds leave, the City’s building services staff cleans the ELC – with nothing other than green supplies and techniques that minimize air contaminants from chemicals.

For more information on the McColl Pond ELC, visit www.cityofsavage.com.

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