June 1, 2012

Project Spotlight: Heifer International Education Center, Little Rock, Arkansas

Everything that Heifer International does has sustainability in mind, so it’s fitting this non-profit’s new International Education Center would be designed and built with this in mind. 

To this end, Heifer hired Polk Stanley Wilcox to help determine a strategy that made financial sense, but also adhered to its sustainable goals. “We are committed to finding solutions that make both environmental and economic sense within the life cycle of the project,” says Reese Rowland, principal of the Little Rock, AR-based firm, designer of the state’s first LEED Platinum and LEED Gold buildings. “We found beauty in strategies that are environmentally sound.”

The 20-acre site, formerly an environmentally contaminated brownfield, includes Heifer’s $18-million headquarters, a national AIA top ten green building designed by Polk Stanley Wilcox more than a decade ago when sustainability was a relatively new concept. Today a new ecosystem flourishes, while wetlands irrigate the site with no reliance on external sources. Spillways carved into concrete walls deliver roof rainwater to be stored in the wetland. The water is then reused to feed vegetation specifically chosen to scrub the water, eliminating pollutants naturally.

Collected water from other buildings is stored in a tank for use in the mechanical system and for flushing toilets.  The water bill for the combined 115,000-square foot headquarters and Education Center, which includes exhibit galleries, meeting spaces, a gift shop and a café, has been as low as $400. Without the café, the number would fall to about $150. “That has been probably the most successful aspect of the building,” says Rowland. Imagine what will result from the recent solar installation.  

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