National Architecture Week: Sustainability & Resilience on Earth Day

Creating sustainable spaces is a passion. At BVH, we are committed to the 2030 Challenge, setting goals that align with the project’s aim for all buildings to be carbon neutral by 2030.

While many of our projects feature sustainability goals, the recently completed Nature Conservancy at the Niobrara Valley Preserve is one of our best examples of how sustainable and earth-friendly materials can create a beautiful project that blends seamlessly into the natural environment.

The Nature Conservancy’s 56,000-acre Niobrara Valley Preserve is one of the largest conservancy preserves in the U.S. and a model for grassland management using bison, cattle, and fire.

The project is designed to amplify the natural environment through sustainable methods and nuanced material choices. The use of charred wood siding on north/south walls (Shou-sugi-ban) and Cor-ten steel on east/west walls recall the weathering-nature of materials. Sourced on-site from overgrowth, cedar siding is charred using an ancient Japanese technique to provide durability and resistance to insects. Cor-ten steel will oxidize providing an ever-changing dynamic facade. The use of structurally insulated panels to enclose the building envelope provides a highly insulated, structurally-sound building with decades of durability.

Creating a high-performing building envelope develops a human-centered interior experience. An empirically calibrated window system using modular steel louvers veils the southern facing expanses of glass. The system allows views to the landscape, obstructs unwanted solar heat gain during the summer, and allows the sun to help heat the space during the winter months by the variable openness, similar to blinds. The system is developed through computer analysis of pertinent data in real-time as the design is fine-tuned to provide an aesthetically pleasing, high-performance façade system. Where louvers were not desired, the planes of glass were regressed into the building with the roof providing the necessary shading. The result is a visitor center tailored to compliment the noble goals of The Nature Conservancy.