New Station Is Friend To Nature And Visitors
The National Park Service cut ribbon Monday on the reconstructed Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitor Contact Station, a so-called "green" building that was designed to minimize its impact on the environment.
Designers said they employed several traditional yet environmentallyfriendly techniques and practices to create a new visitor station that is among the most energy-efficient in the National Park System, and which ranked highly according to nationally accepted green standards.
"The option of creating green buildings allows people to minimize their impact on the environment, acknowledges that people are part of the web of life, and promotes ethical action," said Billy Garrett, Deputy General Superintendent for Gateway National Recreation Area.
The visitor station is nestled in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge on the west side of Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel. It was first built in the early 1970s. Designers began the $3 million reconstruction process in 2001, according to the NPS.
"We're are doing not only what's smart but what's responsible," Weiner said.
The new station has sensor-activated lighting and uses skylights, large windows, light paint on the interior walls and bamboo flooring to keep the inside bright with mostly natural light. Solar panels use the sun's energy to heat restroom sink water, and the toilets are water-savers. In the men's room, no-flush urinals rely on gravity and enzymes and can save thousands of gallons of water per year.
The skylights and windows also help heat the building in tandem with a geothermal system that circulates liquid more than 100 feet below the surface of the ground to where the temperature is a constant 55 degrees (a heat pump is used during cold months). A system of air ducts and radiant floors are used to release the heat from the liquid. The same system is used to dissipate heat during the warm months. The station uses three ceiling fans and has just one air conditioning unit in one office.
Architect Richard Southwick told The Wave that while "age-old traditional architecture" was at the heart of the project, the focus on combining several elements to create a green building is what makes the new visitor station stand out. Longstanding design principles such as overhangs to keep direct sunlight off of the windows and wind turbines for ventilation were used, he said.
On the building's south side, a Trombe Wall - a masonry wall fronted by glass - conserves and radiates heat into the building. The technology has been around for more than 100 years.
Project Manager Carol A. Whipple said the NPS selected locally produced (within 500 miles) building materials to reduce the amount of energy spent on getting the materials to the work site. The original structure was incorporated into the new one and designers were careful not to encroach on the refuge by over-expanding the station's "footprint," she said.
The 6,656 square-foot station now has a conference room that Garrett and others said is the perfect venue for meetings related to the refuge and Jamaica Bay.
NPS officials said the new station has earned several awards, including a gold certification under the nationally recognized Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. And while it was the building itself that stole the show on Monday, several NPS officials and members of the public said its true function is to act as a gateway to the refuge's 9,000-plus acres. The refuge is one of the nation's most important urban wildlife refuges and is world-renowned for bird watching.
"There are offices, exhibit space and room for group gatherings, but the contact station is not an end in itself," Garrett said. "Journeys may begin and end here, but the real experience is 'out there.'"
Don Riepe, a former manager of the wildlife refuge for the NPS and current Jamaica Bay Guardian, said the new station was a vast improvement.
"This building is so much better in terms of space, bathrooms and meeting space," Riepe said.