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.