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Naturally green education: The LEED Platinum San Elijo Nature Center educates the public on one of California's remaining coastal wetlands

In California, more than 90 percent of all coastal wetlands are lost forever because of development. The San Elijo Lagoon is one of the few remaining coastal wetlands of San Diego County and is home to 700 specie of animals and plants. The lagoon stretches along the coast between Solana Beach and the Encinitas and is part of the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, a county and state regional park of nearly 1,000 acres (400 hectares) of diverse habitats, including six plant communities and 7 miles (11 km) of trails.

Completed in January, the 5,600-square foot(520-m2) San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center in Encinitas, Calif., serves to educate and encourage exploration of the San Elijo Lagoon. The LEED Platinum certified building features state-of-the-art, museum-quality exhibits interpreting the natural and cultural resources of the lagoon, as well as the environment and sustainable design features of the building.

The two-story building is made from recyclable materials and features a cool metal roof; a 517-square-foot (48-m2) green roof that includes native plants such as Yarrow, Dudleya and Blue Eyed Grass; natural daylighting and ventilation; low-VOC materials; stormwater retention and management; and 36 photovoltaic panels from Sunpower Corp., San Jose, Calif.

According to Ruth Fajarit-Davis, AIA, LEED AP, with Zagrodnik & Thomas Architects,San Diego, almost all of the rooms are daylit and have extensive views of the lagoon. Interactive exhibits showcase the surrounding diverse plant and animal communities, while also explaining the history of the area and the importance of the watershed.


"The building itself serves as a component of the education features of the project," Fajarit-Davis said. "Cut-aways in the floors and walls expose the radiant heat piping and the purple recycled water pipes. Additional exhibit panels throughout the building explain the photovoltaic panels, green roof and other sustainable design elements."

Challenger Sheet Metal, San Diego, handcrafted
the metal roof using 4,400 square feet (409 m2) of 24-gauge coil stock sheets from McElroy Metal Inc., Bossier City, La. Challenger also handcrafted the fascia and soffit materials. The standing-seam metal roof has an Ash Gray cool roof coating by Minneapolis based Valspar that helps to reflect heat from the building. The metal roof was regionally manufactured using pre-consumer and post consumer material. CETCO, Hoffman Estates,Ill., supplied the StrongSeal SA waterproofing underlayment made from recycled tire rubber that was used under the metal roof.

"The cool metal roof serves both in aesthetical and sustainable design," Fajarit- Davis said. "The wavy metal roof is an organic shape that contrasts and complements the adjacent concrete and masonry materials. It is a distinctive design feature of the building."


San Elijo Nature Center, Encinitas, Calif.

Owner: County of San Diego Parks and Recreation

Architect: Zagrodnik & Thomas Architects, San Diego

General contractor: Riha Construction, La Mesa, Calif.

Sheet metal contractor: Challenger Sheet Metal, San Diego

Coating: Valspar, Minneapolis

Photovoltaic panels: Sunpower Corp., San Jose, Calif.

Sheet metal: McElroy Metal Inc., Bossier City, La.

Waterproofing underlayment: CETCO, Hoffman Estates, Ill.