Westwood Hills Nature Center

Westwood Hills Nature Center

Working closely with Westwood Hills Nature Center and HGA Architects, Integral Group was responsible for leading the strategy to achieve the client’s net-zero energy, carbon, and water resiliency objectives. As part of our analysis, we evaluated efficiency strategies, including an improved envelope, a highly efficient HVAC system, an advanced lighting system, and low-flow water use fixtures that would help the project meet its performance targets. As the first Zero Net Energy building in St. Louis Park, the nature center serves as a model for zero-energy building construction and proves that net-zero energy design is possible, even in cold Minnesota winters.

Designed as a teaching tool that connects visitors with nature, the facility includes numerous high performance and sustainability features, with a focus on the passive elements including a high-performance envelope, building orientation optimized to suit site-specific solar and wind profiles, and natural ventilation strategies for space conditioning when the exterior conditions favor.

The Westwood Hills Nature Center is a 160-acre natural area featuring marsh, woods, and restored prairie. The preserve remains beautiful throughout the changing seasons and provides a home for many animals including deer, fox, mink, and owls. The new environmental learning center serves as a replacement for a smaller, nondescript building that had served area hikers, birders, and schoolchildren since 1981.

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