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Celebration at Lee County’s first ‘green’ building Tuesday

By Staff | Mar 12, 2009

A new twist on celebrating “green” will take place on St. Patrick’s Day, Tuesday, March 17, as the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve salutes its new LEED’s Silver Certification award for its interpretive center, with activities free and open to the public.
The center is the first building in Lee County to receive the LEED certification, an award given buildings that meet the rigorous guidelines required to show Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
The 13,000-square-foot building was designed by Parker/Mudgett/Smith Architects, Inc., of Fort Myers, working with the Friends of Six Mile, the dedicated support group that leads fund-raising efforts and serves as a volunteer force on the slough’s behalf.
The visitors’ center, which incorporates sustainable materials and techniques that reduce energy demands, was first conceived in 2002 and completed in 2008 with a budget of about $3.6 million. The work began as a pro bono, or free, collaboration between the support group and firm architects Wiley Parker and Jeff Mudgett.
Friends’ president Joyce Sanders worked tirelessly for years to bring the project to reality, while a founding Friends board member, the late Ben Johnson, was a major force driving for the LEED certification. After the “Friends” developed the groundwork, Lee County took on the center as a capital project, and hired Parker/Mudgett/Smith to complete what they and the Friends began.
The building opened for use last year, and the anticipated LEED certification was awarded last month. The award cannot be given until the project is complete and has undergone extensive and strenuous review. This is the first building in Lee County to receive the prized certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The interpretive center won additional recognition when the architects were chosen to present the project, as a premier example of LEED-certified building, at a Construction Specification Institute seminar earlier this month.
A few elements going toward the center’s certification include:
*The building’s placement on a site that was previously disturbed, negating the need to disturb other pristine areas.
*Use of recycled and renewable materials, such as steel and bamboo and paper-based products,
*High-efficiency mechanical and electrical systems and low-use water facilities, as well as captured rainwater.
*Buying local goods to reduce the energy costs of transportation.
“The county and the Friends of Six Mile wanted to take the lead in community education,” said Mudgett in a prepared statement. “By being green, the center becomes a teaching tool, with lessons exemplifying the interconnectedness of the environment, human health, and personal and instituti onal responsibility…the LEED certification helps show that this project is a great success not just for the owner and the team, but for our community and the globe.”
Lee County commissioners are expected to attend Tuesday’s celebration, which is free and open to the public, from 2-4 p.m. Activities include presentation of the award, young dancers performing Irish dances, musicians, guided tours focused on the green aspects of the building, and boardwalk strolls through the Six Mile Cypress swamp.
Other green buildings by Parker/Mudgett/Smith include the Baker School, a public school for the youngest students, in Charlotte County, and the first green-certified public school in the state of Florida. The firm’s other community and environmentally oriented projects include the visitor pavilion at the Randell Research Center on Pineland; the Sanibel-Captiva Conservati on Foundation’s building; and the otter facility at Care and Rehabilitation of Wildlife on Sanibel.