Upon opening the Nature Place in 2017, the conservation organization dramatically expanded its programming and opened a new nature preschool, significantly increasing regional awareness. By 2019, Berks Nature’s Eco-Camps, a mainstay of the organization, reached capacity, and spatial constraints combined with inclement weather placed limitations on school field trips. To welcome every child interested in nature, Berks Nature engaged GWWO to design an addition that will enhance its service to the community by growing its educational facilities.
“Berks Nature will utilize the Nature Place (and our newly constructed rooftop deck and classroom) to expand its educational programs, increase profitability, and grow our community’s involvement in the preservation and appreciation of natural resources. We want The Nature Place to become a hub of environmental activity, community engagement, and location for organizations to meet,” said Kim Murphy, President of Berks Nature.
The new classroom and rooftop deck addition will increase the organization's educational space fivefold. After exploring many solutions, including a separate pavilion, the team chose to surround the existing preschool wing to reduce site disturbance, an environmentally and economically responsible decision, and create synergies with the existing facilities. A new 2,500 SF covered rooftop deck will link the current building to the new classroom and provide much-needed multi-purpose space. The new 2,200 SF classroom, connected to the deck via an operable glass wall, will allow Berks Nature to increase and diversify its educational programming and host larger school groups and community events. A breezeway under the addition and overlooking the wetlands will feature flexible event and gathering space, including a fireplace for storytime and smores.
Environmental responsibility was a driving factor in the design. Sustainable features include bird-strike resistant glass, sheep’s wool insulation, recycled materials, high-efficiency mechanical systems, rain barrels, and others that highlight strategies visitors can incorporate into their own homes. The $3.5 million dollar project is expected to open this winter.