Working Toward the Site Petal for the Brock Environmental Center

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The Chesapeake Bay Foundation Brock Environmental Center is targeting a Living Building Challenge certification and striving to be a “net zero” power facility to serve as a role model for future construction. The Living Building Challenge is comprised of seven performance areas, or “Petals” – Materials, Site, Water, Energy, Health, Equity and Beauty.

In our previous blog post, we explained how the facility is meeting the criteria of the Materials Petal of the Living Building Challenge. The next Petal we will discuss is the “Site” Petal, which focuses on “restoring a healthy coexistence with nature.”

Site Petal Description

The Site Petal is intended to articulate where it is acceptable for people to build, how to protect and restore a place once it is developed and to encourage the creation of communities that are based on the pedestrian rather than the automobile. The communities should be supported by local and regional agriculture and focus on relying on “people power” – walking and bicycling – supplemented by shared transit.Living Building Challenge Site Petal

There are 4 parts to the Site Petal:

1. Limits to Growth

2. Urban Agriculture

3. Habitat Exchange

4. Car Free Living

We will explain these 4 areas in detail and how the Brock Environmental Center will fit the criteria for the Site Petal.

1. Limits to Growth

This focus requires that projects are built on greyfields or brownfields, which are previously developed sites that are not classified as sensitive ecological habitats such as wetlands, primary dunes, prime farmland, etc. Further, on-site landscaping may only include native and/or naturalized species that support succession.

The Brock Center site is considered a greyfield—dredging materials were stored on the site for about 40 years to support dredging operations in the Lynnhaven River. It is not a brownfield site because there was never any “development” built on the property. The sand that was used to fill the land was sold about 15 years ago and the land has remained relatively flat since.

2. Urban Agriculture

Using a Floor Area Ratio (F.A.R.) as a basis for calculation, all projects must integrate opportunities for agriculture appropriate to the scale and density of the project. For example, if the project has a F.A.R. of 0.5 ≤ 0.74 then a minimum of 25% of the project area must be used for food production.

Since the primary purpose of the building is to protect the existing ecological habitats, there will not be any agricultural processes utilized on the project. The center has taken the initiative to relocate existing trees and other local vegetation that were located in the building footprint in lieu of just stripping and removing the existing natural landscape. The project is also constructing wetlands onsite to treat the grey water created by the reuse of collected rainwater. In addition, Hourigan Construction plans to use on-site delivery during the construction, meaning materials will only be delivered as needed. This prevents the need to store materials on site and will further preserve the land.

3. Habitat Exchange

This requirement states that for each hectare (107,639 square feet) of development, an equal amount of land must be set-aside in perpetuity as part of a habitat exchange. The Brock Environmental Center will comply with this requirement, but has not yet specifically identified the property to be set-aside.

4. Car Free Living

Each new project should contribute to walkable, pedestrian-oriented communities. A “car free lifestyle” is defined by the potential for a majority of people living in the neighborhood to have a productive and rich lifestyle without need of a car.

The Brock Environmental Center will only have 3-4 parking spaces on site solely to accommodate Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. Deliveries are allowed to temporarily park in the designated delivery lane while they are offloading. All other visitors will be required to park at an off-site parking lot located about 600 feet away, adjacent to a City of Virginia Beach Public Utilities facility.

The Living Building Challenge is a highly prestigious and sought after certification that very few projects have been able to achieve. If all of the criteria are met, then the Brock Environmental Center will be Virginia’s first LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge building. Hourigan Construction is working hard to meet all of the Petal requirements in order to reach this goal.

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