Mississippi Gulf Coast Environmental Research and Educational Center Awarded LEED Gold Certification

Grand Bay Coastal Resources Center's architecture teaches about sustainable design

JACKSON COUNTY, Miss. - The Grand Bay Coastal Resources Center has been awarded LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Headquarters for the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) and Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge staff, the $7 million, 20,000-square-foot environmental research and educational facility is the first state government-owned, LEED certified project in the State of Mississippi. It was designed by architecture firm Lord, Aeck & Sargent in collaboration with Studio South Architects.

The Grand Bay NERR, an isolated reserve on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, comprises some 18,000 acres of marsh, waters and coastal wetlands that are home to several rare plant and animal species as well as numerous commercial and recreational fish species. The land is owned and jointly managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR). Through its research and educational outreach efforts, the new facility supports the NERR's charter to promote stewardship of coastal resources using an integrated program of research, long-term monitoring, training and education. And, it does much more.

"Our new facility is one of the greenest buildings in the state of Mississippi, but even more important, it demonstrates our philosophy of environmental consciousness and shows visitors how natural building materials and sustainable design strategies and techniques can be used," said David Ruple, Grand Bay NERR manager.

To that end, the building itself is "a green demonstration facility that teaches through its architecture what sustainable design is about, showing how to develop land responsibly in sensitive areas," said Jim Nicolow, director of sustainability at Lord, Aeck & Sargent.

To begin with, the Center was constructed on a previously developed part of the reserve in order to reduce site impact. Because it is located in a hurricane-prone area - floodwaters approximately 10 feet high covered the site during Hurricane Katrina - the building is elevated 19.5 feet above sea level on a framework of galvanized steel trusses that sit atop pilings. Nicolow said this is a more environmentally friendly solution than bringing in dirt fill to raise the site, which would have altered its natural hydrology.

Center saves on water and energy
Water conservation and energy savings were important drivers in the building%8