In July 2006, the new Park Education Center opened at Mount Rainier. The new building replaces an old barn and corral that once served the park’s now-defunct horse patrol program. Drawing on the talents of many, park staff planned, designed, and built the eco-designed building to be a showcase for sustainability in the park. This new Education Center building is just one of the ways that Mount Rainier National Park demonstrates its commitment to green building and to the National Park Service mission of preservation and conservation of park resources.
The Park Education Center features two classrooms, an office, storage, a small galley kitchen (for staff and teacher workshops), and restrooms. Click here to see the floor plans. Some of the sustainable design elements include innovative wall construction, energy efficient windows, recycled and recyclable carpeting, dual flush toilets, in-floor heating, and Energy Star appliances.
Exterior walls are constructed of a polystyrene block system filled with rebar and concrete. With an R50 insulation rating, this type of wall system has more than twice the insulation recommendation of R21for Super Good Sense construction. Exterior walls are finished with HardiPlank® board and batten siding to match the appearance and architectural style of nearby park buildings. Click here to see of the outside of the building. Interior walls, while standard construction, are painted with low volatile organic compound (VOC) paints. In place of mounted projection screens, projection screen paint creates a projection wall in each classroom.
The in-floor radiant heat system is another exciting component of the Education Center. Designed to maximize energy efficiency with different heating zones and thermostats that operate independently, the heating system maintains a more constant temperature. A park construction crew installed the sub-floor insulating material and metal gridwork. Over this, the contractor laid a curved, winding network of plastic piping through which heated water flows. Once completed, the pipes and gridwork were covered by the concrete floor slabs through which the heat will radiate. In addition, the boiler that heats the water for this system has an Energy Star rating.
Windows & Lighting
Large, dual-paned, low-e windows not only look out into the surrounding forest and meadow, but they also allow for plenty natural light. Energy-efficient skylights in the hallway and frosted windows in the restrooms also allow maximum use of natural light. Maximizing the natural light reduces reliance on electricity for lighting throughout the facility. All of the light fixtures also have an Energy Star rating.
The restrooms feature high pressure, low flow, dual flush toilets. The flushing mechanism uses the minimum amount of water necessary for flushing liquids (.8 gallons/flush) and solids (1.6 gallons/flush).
Carpeting in the classrooms not only enhances the acoustics of the teaching spaces, but is recycled and recyclable. The carpet design mimics the appearance of the natural groundcover in the surrounding forest and landscape (and hides any dirt that may sneak in on the hiking boots and sneakers) and will complement the teaching murals planned for the classrooms. In the hallway and restrooms, concrete floors have been stained.
Plans for the Education Center also include two teaching murals that will contribute to the thematic teaching environments. One mural will focus on the geology of Mount Rainier, illustrating its volcanic structure and glacial system. The other mural will focus on different life zones found in the park and the feature plants and animals of each zone. Both murals will include surface and sub-surface/cutaway perspectives.
The Fee Demonstration Program, a program that uses the money collected at the park’s entrance stations and campgrounds, funded construction of the Education Center.
In addition, the park received one of nine 2005 National Park Service Recycling At Work Grants from the National Park Foundation through a generous donation from Unilever, a Proud Partner of America’s National Parks. With this grant, the Education Center purchased 100% recycled plastic lumber products including benches for the Education Center’s front and back porches, benches for indoor and outdoor teaching spaces, picnic tables, and recycling and trash receptacles.
In 2006, the Education Center received a grant from Washington’s National Park Fund to begin work on the geology mural in one of the classrooms.