On September 20, The Nature Place, Berks Nature’s new environmental exploration and education center, opened to the public to rave reviews.
A working example of conservation principals and sustainable development, the new facility embraces the organization’s belief that nature is essential to our quality of life. According to Berks Nature President Kim Murphy, “Our instructions to the architects were to create a simple design, easy to maintain, functional, and respectful of the park. What we have isn’t anything I could have envisioned, but it is everything we dreamed of.”
Located within the nearly 100-acre Angelica Park, the 8,970-SF center’s primary focus is to inspire a new generation of conservationists in a world that is increasingly becoming less connected with nature. Sited adjacent to an existing classroom building, orientation of the new facility celebrates the environment by providing panoramic views of the surrounding wetlands, making a visual connection with the nearby Neversink Mountain, and maximizing daylighting.
Merging the indoors and out, two new classrooms feature walls that open to an outdoor deck overlooking the wetlands where students can learn about all aspects of air, land, water, waste, energy, and nature. Steps descending from the deck provide access to Angelica Creek and space for learning and exploration. An open plaza adjacent to the main entrance serves as yet another area for visitors to play, learn, explore, and grow. Nearby rain gardens serve as a teaching tool and promote stormwater management.
Deferring to its surroundings and meant to merge into the existing landscape, the building’s materials include recycled stone masonry from farm buildings and reclaimed wood from Pennsylvania mushroom farms. Designed to achieve LEED Silver certification, other sustainable design features include daylight sensors, energy-efficient LED lighting, reflective roofing materials to minimize the heat island effect, bird collision deterrence, reduced water usage including water efficient landscaping, FSC-certified wood, low-emitting materials, and daylighting.
Additional program spaces include a lobby complete with an interactive display of the park’s habitat, conference rooms available for community use, and offices for the organization’s staff. Concurrent with the building construction, Berks Nature has also made improvements to the park’s trails and constructed a new nature play zone.
For more information on Berks Nature, the leading agent for the conservation of the environment in Berks County, please visit www.berksnature.org.