Environmental Nature Center and Preschool
Architect: LPA, Inc.
Owner: Environmental Nature Center / Bo Glover
Location: Newport Beach, California
Project site: Previously developed land
Building program type(s): Education – General, Of f ice – 10,000sf , Public Assembly –Entertainment/Culture
2020 COTE Top Ten Plus honoree
In 2008, the firm designed the 8,535-square-foot Environmental Nature Center (ENC), which focuses on providing quality education through hands-on experience with nature. Through simple and cost-effective design strategies, the center was certified as the first LEED Platinum building in Orange County, California, and has operated at net zero since it opened, serving the community as an educational tool for sustainability.
In 2019, the 10,380-square-foot preschool was added, supporting the ENC’s mission to deliver quality, nature-based education for children ages 2 ½ to 5. Developed in conjunctions with educators, the community, and ENC leaders, the preschool complements the existing facility while seamlessly blending indoor and outdoor spaces, providing children with an intuitive understanding of nature and the natural world.
"It introduces kids to responsible sustainability at a young age and is a place where people will want to send their children. It does all the right things—water, biophilia, resilience, and strong material choices." - Jury comment
Developed through a holistic design approach, using the firm’s integrated team of architects, engineers, landscape architects, and interior designers, the projects create over four acres of dedicated open space within a suburban community. Taking advantage of the coastal climate, the buildings are oriented to allow for natural ventilation, significantly reducing initial and long-term costs. Neither building uses a mechanical cooling system. Low-energy ceiling fans and the building form enhance air movement when needed. Radiant floor heating provides low-energy, mild heating as required. Active and passive sustainable approaches were key in minimizing the energy demand for the preschool. The south-facing roof of the preschool accommodates a 32 kW array of photovoltaic panels, which are designed to provide 105 percent of the net energy for the preschool’s electrical needs.
ENC Nature Preschool is pursuing LEED NC Platinum certification and the Living Building Challenge’s Petal Certification, which will make it one of the first projects in the region to achieve this level of sustainability and healthy environments. With a focus on passive, efficient design, the ENC campus is serving as a living laboratory and educational tool for smart green design and conservation.