Learning Center awarded LEED Silver!


In this photo (L to R): Chip Jenkins, North Cascades National Park superintendent, David Hall, Henry Klein Partnership (HKP) partner, Jorge Carrasco, Seattle City Light Superintendent and Saul Weisberg, North Cascades Institute Executive Director in the main corridor of the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. Hall holds the new LEED Silver emblem; all four hold the Designing & Building with FSC Award from the Forest Stewardship Council.

Sustainable Practices Protect Pristine Wilderness Area

SEATTLE — The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, a uniquely designed and constructed facility created by the partnership of Seattle City Light, North Cascades National Park and the North Cascades Institute, has earned the U.S. Green Building Council’s “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” or LEED Silver certification.
LEED Silver certification recognizes a high level of achievement in sustainability and integration with natural systems.
“The partnership on this project is truly unique,” City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco said. “By working together, we have succeeded in creating a wonderful facility for learning and it has realized our commitment to demonstrate stewardship as well as resource protection for this beautiful area that is so vital to us and our customers.”

Seattle City Light has three major dams on the upper reaches of the Skagit River. Operating those dams within the North Cascades National Park, which was designated long after their construction, offers challenges and some unlikely partnership opportunities.
In 1991, as a part of its relicensing efforts for the Skagit Hydroelectric Project, City Light, the National Park Service and the North Cascades Institute came together to create a place where people could experience the possibilities of responsible stewardship and the benefits of a partnership formed around the notion of learning about nature and protecting habitat while enjoying pristine surroundings. The result of that collaboration is the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.
Designed by HKP architects and completed by Dawson Construction in 2006, the learning center’s 38,500-square-foot residential campus contains 15 buildings, roads and paths on a remote lakeshore within North Cascades National Park. The campus includes a main complex of administration, classroom, laboratory and library buildings. North Cascades Institute instructors and staff host field-based educational programs and operate the facility.
“Buildings are a prime example of how human systems integrate with natural systems,” U.S. Green Building Council President Rick Fedrizzi said.  “The environmental learning center efficiently uses our natural resources and makes an immediate, positive impact on our planet, which will tremendously benefit future generations to come.”
To minimize site disturbance, new buildings were located on building pads of previous cabins from an old resort.  The previous lakeshore restaurant was renovated to become the dining hall.  Designing 15 smaller buildings rather than several large ones minimized excavation and allowed sizeable trees to be preserved to within a few feet of the buildings.  The previously disturbed areas from old roads and building pads were restored by volunteers with over 20,000 native plants propagated from seeds and cuttings gathered from the site.
“The Learning Center has helped make our dream a reality,” said Saul Weisberg, Executive Director of the institute, a 23-year old nonprofit group dedicated to conserving and restoring Northwest environments through education. “We have been able to triple the number of people we reach each year, and bring school children, families, teachers and businesses to North Cascades National Park to learn about and care for this special part of the world.”
About North Cascades Institute
North Cascades Institute seeks to inspire a closer relationship with nature through direct experiences. Its mission is to conserve and restore Northwest environments through education. Since 1986 it has helped connect people, nature and community through science, art, literature and the hands-on study of natural and cultural history.

About North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park is a national treasure that provides a rich tapestry of experiences for all abilities and interests ranging from accessible walks to world-class mountaineering. Almost 400 miles of trails and vast undeveloped wilderness allow visitors to experience nature with minimal human-caused intrusions. Also popular are scenic driving, hiking, camping, nature-watching, relaxing, boating and fishing.

About Seattle City Light
Seattle City Light is a municipally owned electric utility serving about 1 million people in the greater Seattle area. In 2005 it became the first large utility in the nation to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions and remains the only large utility to achieve such status. City Light’s Skagit Hydroelectric Project provides about 17 percent of the electricity for its customers. The utility is actively involved in salmon restoration, is recognized as a national leader in energy conservation and is committed to providing safe, reliable, low-cost power in an environmentally responsible manner.
About the U.S. Green Building Council
The U.S. Green Building Council is a nonprofit membership organization whose vision is a
sustainable built environment within a generation. Its membership includes corporations, builders, universities, government agencies, and other nonprofit organizations.

Leave a Comment