Local News

Archbold green buildings in running for Florida favorite building contest

—The Frances Archbold Hufty Learning Center and the Adrian Archbold Lodge is one of 58 entries vying to be Floridians’ favorite building, and the latest vote tally puts the two Venus buildings in the top five of the online contest ,with more than 250,000 votes counted.

The Florida Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, which is hosting the People’s Choice Award, will announce the winner later this month.

As of June 30, the buildings that were constructed in 2011 and are one of a handful in Florida to have the highest possible rating for green buildings, were on the top five list of nominated names. They are both listed as one entry.

The online voting, at http://www.floridapeopleschoice.org/, ends midnight July 18.

The entries include hospitals, university buildings, museums, schools, sports facilities and retail buildings.

Fort Myers based Parker/Mudgett/Smith Architects Inc., Fort Myers, designed the Highlands County structures.

Archbold Biological Station’s Debbie Upp said the learning center and the lodge was the 12th building project in Florida to get the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, platinum certification.

She said they are trying to spread the word about the online contest on social media, and their web site has a link to the site.

In a 2012 news release, Hilary Swain, Archbold executive director, explained that their green building ideas were inspired by the “adaptations we study in nature for the economical use of energy and water.”

“These Archbold buildings will serve as a prototype of what can be achieved with green construction across rural America, an enduring symbiosis of form, function, and natural beauty,” she said.

Upp said to earn the certification, a building has to meet a certain number of points for environmentally friendly and energy efficient attributes, which is 80 for a LEED platinum certification.

The way the building is designed, for example, keeps the “light in and the heat out,” she said. Another is a recycling aspect, where materials from a part of a concrete parking lot that was torn, were recycled.

Rob Engel, site engineer from Stantec , explained in the news release that even though Archbold is 8,841-acres in size, the challenge “we met was to design within a small 3.3-acre building site that was cleared many years ago. We avoided impacts to the surrounding Florida scrub habitat, one of the most threatened ecosystems in North America.”

Jeff Mudgett, lead architect, said he drew inspiration from the natural setting and from Archbold’s tradition of science and natural history.

One of Archbold’s goals was to show how feasible a platinum building can be, he said. “Combining traditional approaches to saving energy – porches, large eaves, fans, breezeways, harnessing natural daylight - with new technologies like highly efficient air conditioning, means the extra costs for green construction and high quality materials should be recovered within 10-15 years,” he said.

Project manager and LEED project administrator Michele Gouley votes online very day for five minutes.

“I keep sending emails (to vote) to the design and construction team,” she said.

When Mudgett designed the building, he didn’t want to just “plonk” down a square building in the space it was supposed to go but conceived something that would be “tucked into the environment,” Gouley said.

Her favorite part of the buildings’ environmentally friendly attributes is how the day light is captured through the design, from reflecting tiers to three-tier roofs to how the buildings are placed.

TLC Engineering was responsible for the design of energy and water conservation systems.

Jim Keohane, lead engineer, said in the news release the project was awarded all 10 LEED points for energy optimization, and one point for on-site renewable energy, by including a solar thermal water heating system.

“LEED Platinum 3 was achieved entirely by reducing energy consumption, rather than generating power using photovoltaic panels,” he said.

A rainwater harvesting system with a cistern conserves water. It holds 5,500 gallons, providing more than 80 percent of the water needed annually to flush toilets for both buildings.

Design and construction of the buildings cost $4.17 million, with funding largely from private gifts.