$1 million donation brings eco-friendly Yellowstone National Park Youth Campus closer to realization

Living Building Challenge

$1 million donation brings eco-friendly Yellowstone National Park Youth Campus closer to realization

In 2015, Portland studio Hennebery Eddy Architects (HEA) won a design competition for a new Youth Campus at Yellowstone National Park. The project is striving to be the first collection of buildings in a national park to attain Living Building Challenge (LBC) Certification. This goal moved one step closer to realization when Toyota donated $1 million to aid the development (the current cost estimate according to the studio stands between $30-35 million). The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) spoke to Hennebery Eddy to get up to speed with the project and gather an in-detail perspective.

In terms programming, the campus will cover 49,000 square feet, populating the 15-acre site with ten buildings. Complete with dormitories, classrooms space, staff housing, and equipment storage, the campus will offer teaching facilities as well as dwellings in the park. “The project is designed to incorporate tools and teaching opportunities to empower and inspire the thousands of youth who will visit the campus each year,” the firm stated over email.

HEA discussed their approach to the project: they sought to make the most of Yellowstone’s dramatic landscape while drawing on the “rich cultural history of the region.”

“In form, the design blends the warmth and durability of heavy timber construction with the simple expression of modern architecture,” said HEA. “Buildings are sited to maximize passive heating and cooling potential, optimize photovoltaic orientation, orient gathering spaces to the heart of campus and views, and limit site disturbance and grading. Material selections merge buildings and landscape through the use of natural materials and textures, primarily local stone, wood, and weathered steel.”

The LBC is regarded as one of the most esteemed accolades in environmental certification. To achieve this, projects must respond to the seven “Petals” of Place; Water; Energy; Health; Materials; Equity; and Beauty. In doing so, Yellowstone’s Youth Campus, according to HEA, would promote “both responsible use of the natural environment and a holistically responsible process which incorporates all aspects of design, construction, and operations.” Hennebery Eddy explained that while the project is still in the “design phase,” their “programmatic goals for the campus align with each of the Petals.” HEA walked AN through their approach to each of the seven.

The campus, in being located in Yellowstone, has access to some spectacular views. HEA will frame views of Bunsen Peak, as well other areas, to exploit this opportunity. “The project is at a significant advantage in terms of the experiential aspects of the Place Petal,” said the firm. “The campus will restore a previously developed site and the design limits the removal of existing trees, protects existing wetlands, and minimally disturbs the overall site.”

The LBC requires a surplus of energy (105 percent) to be produced on site. At Yellowstone, all of this will come from roof-mounted photovoltaic panels. “The design team focused first on reducing energy demand through passive systems and high-performance insulation. Campus buildings have an anticipated EUI (Energy Use Intensity) ranging from 7.5 to 11 kWh/SF-yr, which is considered extremely ambitious. All energy used on site will be generated by roof mounted photovoltaic panels.”

Water conservation is an important element in HEA’s scheme. The firm hopes to educate visitors on water use and environmental impacts. “Youth programs will promote reduced water use by encouraging conservation-minded occupant behavior,” they said. In addition to this, the project “incorporates the design and construction of a campus wastewater treatment system which will eliminate the use of potable water for non-potable needs while providing an opportunity for learning through demonstration. This system will remove millions of gallons of waste water from local infrastructure.”

Health & Happiness
As previously mentioned, framed views will offer panoramic vistas while allowing a generous amount of daylight to fill the campus buildings. Inside, air quality will be tested and monitored too. “Even indoors, building occupants will experience a connection to nature through materials, views, patterns, and spaces designed to meet biophilic design principles.”

“With few exceptions, all products will meet the LBC Redlist standards and be non-toxic, ecologically responsible, transparent and socially equitable.” For this to be realized, said HEA, research and tracking of materials “from extraction to installed performance” will take place. “
The project prioritizes local materials, whenever possible utilizing sources from the three states that comprise the park, namely Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho,” they continued. “Additionally, the design seeks to minimize construction waste (e.g., limit cut waste for framing), a practice Hennebery Eddy has successfully implemented on other high-performing, low-impact buildings.”

Throughout the campus, interactions between staff and students are encouraged. “It is designed to meet the universal access design standards—a step beyond compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—creating a welcoming campus for all.”

“The design seeks to reflect the colors, patterns, and textures of the park through exterior material selections,” said the firm. “Internally wood and other softer materials such as felt acoustic treatments are used to create a comfortable and inviting environment.”

The Living Building Challenge is a program of the International Living Future Institute. That organization defines the LBC as “…a building certification program, advocacy tool and philosophy that defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today and acts to rapidly diminish the gap between current limits and the end-game positive solutions we seek.”

According to HEA, Yellowstone is seeking National Park Service Centennial funding along with funds raised by the park’s nonprofit partner, the Yellowstone Park Foundation (YPF). HEA said construction would start in Fall of 2017 at the earliest.