Pennsylvania Elk Country Visitor Center Honored for Energy Conservation Achievement
HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 25, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Pennsylvania’s widely acclaimed Elk Country Visitor Center has earned independent honors for energy efficiency and environmental design, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard Allan announced today.
“We are proud to learn yet another major DCNR Pennsylvania Wilds project has been awarded Gold LEED status by the U.S. Green Building Council,” Allan said. “Similar recognition recently was extended to the new Nature Inn at Bald Eagle in Centre County and the Tiadaghton State Forest Resource Management Center in Lycoming County.”
LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized mark of design, construction and maintenance excellence that seeks to ensure buildings reflect the highest environmental and energy efficiency. Offered at four levels for new construction — Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum — the ratings gauge water and energy use, materials, and other design criteria.
“We recognize the effort that went into the design and construction of these three buildings, and the LEED honors they received can only broaden a visitor’s experience,” Allan said.
“The accent here is on learning,” Allan said. “When the ever-increasing Elk Country Visitor Center crowds learn to ‘Bugle like an Elk’ or wander the new ‘Discovery Room’ exhibits, we’re also hoping to introduce them to the center’s unique rainwater collection or geothermal heating and cooling systems.
“Guests at the Nature Inn are being introduced to modern accommodations and an up-close experience with nature, but they also may be using solar-heated shower and laundry water for the first time. Meanwhile, visitors at the Tiadaghton State Forest Resource Management Center will learn how ‘green’ roofs help minimize storm runoff and reduce heating and cooling costs.”
Beyond reduced waste and increased energy and water conservation, lower building operating costs justify efforts to attain LEED certification, Allan said.
“The Nature Inn was designed to be 26 percent more efficient than an average building built to meet code, and electric bills the past year show the building actually is using 29 percent less energy than the baseline case,” Allan said. “That’s an estimated annual energy savings of about $5,400.”
The Elk Country Visitor Center opened in September 2010 on 245 acres of DCNR land in Benezette, Elk County. It offers a four-dimensional story theater, permitting visitors to see and feel storms and other natural events; interactive interpretive exhibits; wildlife trails and viewing areas; wagon rides; year-round restrooms; and parking for cars, RVs and buses.
State funds totaling $6 million were earmarked for center construction with another $6 million coming from private donations. In 2009, DCNR partnered with the nonprofit Keystone Elk Country Alliance, a Pennsylvania-based wildlife conservation organization, to manage the center under a concessionaire management agreement with DCNR. The alliance receives no state funding to operate the center. Its mission is to conserve and enhance Pennsylvania’s elk country for future generations, and educate the public about conservation and resource stewardship.
The center’s LEED features include: rainwater collection and reuse systems; night sky-friendly light fixtures; use of locally available materials and certified wood from responsibly harvested timber; and geothermal heating and cooling systems.
The Nature Inn at Bald Eagle, the first facility of its type in Pennsylvania’s nationally recognized state park system, opened in September 2010, offering visitors modern accommodations and an up-close experience with nature. As a southern entrance point to the 12-county Pennsylvania Wilds, the 16-room inn affords visitors comfortable accommodations, wildlife watching and many other outdoor activities.
The inn’s LEED energy-saving and conservation features include: a high-efficiency geothermal heating and cooling system; solar collectors to heat water for showers and laundry; rain barrels and large cisterns to collect and store rainwater for flushing toilets; low-water consumption; widespread use of Pennsylvania hardwoods from certified forests; and direct access to hiking and biking trails.
The Tiadaghton State Forest District Resource Management Center in Waterville supports the district’s staffing and operational needs. It houses foresters, rangers and other employees, and serves as a year-round welcome center and restroom facility for state forest visitors. The building also serves as a portal to the Pine Creek Valley and the Pennsylvania Wilds regions.
LEED features include a vegetation-covered roof; bike trail; native landscaping species; reduction of paved parking spaces; storm-water retention; roof water collection and re-use; high performance insulation; sun shades and light shelves; energy efficient lighting; and geothermal heating and cooling.
For more information on the Elk Country Visitor Center, visit www.ElkCountryVisitorCenter.com. Details on the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle can be found at http://natureinnatbaldeagle.com/. For information on Tiadaghton State Forest, visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us (click on “Find a Forest”).
Media contact: Terry Brady, 717-772-9101
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources