North Cascades Environmental Learning Center Recieves LEED Silver Award

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Date: May 29, 2009
Contact: Charles Beall, 360 854-7302

North Cascades Environmental Learning Center Earns

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification:

Celebration and Free Picnic May 30

The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center – a uniquely designed and constructed facility created by the partnership of Seattle City Light, North Cascades National Park and the North Cascades Institute – has earned the U.S. Green Building Council’s "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" or LEED® Silver certification.

LEED Silver certification recognizes a high level of achievement in sustainability and integration with natural systems.

"The partnership on this project is truly unique," City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco said. "By working together, we have succeeded in creating a wonderful facility for learning and it has realized our commitment to demonstrate stewardship as well as resource protection for this beautiful area that is so vital to us and our customers."

Seattle City Light has three major dams on the upper reaches of the Skagit River. Operating those dams within the North Cascades National Park, which was designated long after their construction, offers challenges and partnership opportunities.

In 1991, as a part of its relicensing efforts for the Skagit Hydroelectric Project, City Light, the National Park Service and the North Cascades Institute came together to create a place where people could experience the possibilities of responsible stewardship and the benefits of a partnership formed around the notion of learning about nature and protecting habitat while enjoying pristine surroundings. The result of that collaboration is the Environmental Learning Center.

Designed by HKP architects and completed by Dawson Construction in 2006, the Learning Center’s 38,500-square-foot residential campus contains 15 buildings, roads and paths on a remote lakeshore within North Cascades National Park. The campus includes a main complex of administration, classroom, laboratory and library buildings. North Cascades Institute instructors and staff host field-based educational programs and operate the facility.

"Buildings are a prime example of how human systems integrate with natural systems," U.S. Green Building Council President Rick Fedrizzi said. "The Environmental Learning Center efficiently uses our natural resources and makes an immediate, positive impact on our planet, which will tremendously benefit future generations to come."

To minimize site disturbance, new buildings were located on building pads of previous cabins from an old resort. The previous lakeshore restaurant was renovated to become the dining hall. Designing 15 smaller buildings rather than several large ones minimized excavation and allowed sizeable trees to be preserved to within a few feet of the buildings. The previously disturbed areas from old roads and building pads were restored by volunteers with over 20,000 native plants propagated from seeds and cuttings gathered from the site.

The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center hosts a variety of programs, including Family Getaways, Free Day Trips, Adult Field Excursions, and others. "The Learning Center has helped make our dream a reality," said Saul Weisberg, Executive Director of the institute, a 23-year old nonprofit group dedicated to conserving and restoring Northwest environments through education. "We have been able to triple the number of people we reach each year, and bring school children, families, teachers and businesses to North Cascades National Park to learn about and care for this special part of the world."

About North Cascades Institute

North Cascades Institute seeks to inspire a closer relationship with nature through direct experiences. Its mission is to conserve and restore Northwest environments through education. Since 1986 it has helped connect people, nature and community through science, art, literature and the hands-on study of natural and cultural history. Learn more at

About North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park is a national treasure that provides a rich tapestry of experiences for all abilities and interests ranging from accessible walks to world-class mountaineering. Almost 400 miles of trails and vast undeveloped wilderness allow visitors to experience nature with minimal human-caused intrusions. Other popular activities include scenic driving, hiking, camping, nature-watching, relaxing, boating and fishing. Learn more at

About Seattle City Light

Seattle City Light is a municipally owned electric utility serving about 1 million people in the greater Seattle area. In 2005 it became the first large utility in the nation to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions and remains the only large utility to achieve such status. City Light’s Skagit Hydroelectric Project provides about 17 percent of the electricity for its customers. The utility is actively involved in salmon restoration, is recognized as a national leader in energy conservation and is committed to providing safe, reliable, low-cost power in an environmentally responsible manner. Learn more at

About the U.S. Green Building Council

The U.S. Green Building Council is a nonprofit membership organization whose vision is a

sustainable built environment within a generation. Its membership includes corporations, builders, universities, government agencies, and other nonprofit organizations. Learn more at



You are Invited to a Free Picnic

Saturday, May 30 is the North Cascades Institute’s free Annual Picnic at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. In addition to a ceremony celebrating the Center’s recent LEED Silver certification, nature walks, facility tours, art activities, and a barbecue picnic will highlight the day. This free event is an opportunity to meet Institute and park staff and mingle with fellow residents of the North Cascades ecosystem. More information is available at


The North Cascades are Calling You to a Family Getaway at the new Learning Center

Connect with your family and North Cascades National Park at the new Learning Center on Diablo Lake. Spend quality time together while enjoying the invigorating mountain air and starry night skies of the North Cascades, but leave the tent at home because comfortable accommodations in cozy lodges offer the excitement of the great outdoors without the complications of camping! Wonderful meals, with the tastes of young diners in mind, are served in the lakeside dining hall. Kids and adults will enjoy learning about nature through adventures on the lake and trails, games, arts and crafts, storytelling and scientific explorations. Plus, there is PLENTY of free time so your family can do its own thing too. Families are welcome that include parents, guardians, grandparents, children and extended family. Make this summer one that your family won't soon forget. More information is available at

Last updated: February 28, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

810 State Route 20
Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284


(360) 854-7200

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