Building on the success of the current ENC building as the first LEED Platinum certified building in Orange County

“The ENC is Orange County’s most important center for education of our youth in sustainable practices and the reasons for nurturing our environment. BRAVO!!”
– 2014 Eco Awards Judge USGBC Orange County Chapter

“The site design and building worked seamlessly and a great deal of thought was given to the creation of a learning environment where nature was the focus”
– AIAOCC Award Jury

“The ENC Nature Preschool is a model green building and nature based school, and we are enthusiastic about sharing our model with administrators from a multitude of educational institutions — from preschools to universities. We are passionate about empowering people to make sustainable choices: to strengthen their communities, and literally save the world.” – ENC Executive Director Bo Glover.

The Environmental Nature Center’s state-of-the-art ENC Nature Preschool, was awarded Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.  The award is the highest designation available to buildings that demonstrate energy efficiency and sustainability.

At 89 points, the ENC Nature Preschool building is included in the top 1% of LEED buildings in the world. The 10,380-square-foot facility is designed to deliver nature-based education for children ages 2 ½ to 5.

The ENC’s learning facility that opened in 2008 was the first LEED Platinum building in Orange County. It was also one of the first net-zero buildings in the region. The preschool also operates at net-zero, and seamlessly blends indoor and outdoor learning environments to connect children to nature. The nature play and education areas, developed in collaboration with educators, the community, and the ENC, expand on the sustainability focus of the original nature center.

To take advantage of the coastal climate, the original building and the pre-school were oriented to allow for natural ventilation, significantly reducing initial and long-term operating costs. Neither building uses a conventional HVAC system. Low-energy ceiling fans enhance air movement when needed. A radiant floor heating system provides low energy, mild heating as required.

Energy efficiency and water conservation are integrated into every element of the facility. The butterfly-shaped roof opens the classrooms to natural light and supports a 32KW array of photovoltaic panels, which are designed to provide 105 percent of the net energy for the preschool’s electrical needs. Rainwater is treated as an educational tool. Single-sloped roofs capture the water, which is channeled through rock basins to bioswales, where the water is naturally treated and cleaned by native plants before leaving the site to recharge aquifers.

LPA’s landscape architects worked closely with ENC’s educators and the community to develop the grounds and blend the outdoor spaces with the school’s mission. All of the plants in the new Nature Playscape that extends from the built environment are native to California. Most are locally native and do not require irrigation. There are three distinct zones, each named after a national park—Sequoia, Joshua Tree and Yosemite. Many of the rocks and natural elements are movable, allowing kids to create their own environments.

In addition to LEED Platinum, the pre-school is pursuing the Living Building Challenge’s Petal Certification, one of the first projects in the region to target both the high-level of sustainability and the healthy environment standard. The preschool was already awarded a citation from the American Institute of Architects Orange County Chapter (AIAOCC) in 2015. The American Institute of Architect’s Committee on the Environment (COTE) honored the Environmental Nature Center’s architectural firm, LPA, with a national COTE Top Ten award, the industry’s best-known sustainable design award, for the design of the Environmental Nature Center and ENC Nature Pre-School.

Our students, our community and our world will benefit as the ENC continues to raise the bar in ecological responsibility, sustainable practices, and environmental education.

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