Kickapoo Nature Center, Oregon, IL

A nature conservancy visitor center demonstrates top notch energy-efficient design

Kent and Kathy Lawrence knew there was only one way to build: green. These founders of Kickapoo/Mud Creek Nature Conservancy in Oregon, IL made it a priority from day one. To wit: ensure a reduced environmental footprint for the new Kickapoo Center. Energy efficient design sat first and foremost because the center would serve as a meeting place and also house the conservancy’s educational displays. The couple wanted the new center acting as an example of cost-effective energy efficient design and green home construction.

“We had a specific functional purpose from the beginning,” said Kent Lawrence. “We wanted to get low energy usage and modern day ambient conditions at real market prices.”

“What I’ve found is that a well-insulated thermal envelope is really the most cost-efficient way to reduce energy use.” – Victor Zaderej, Solar Homes, LLC

Designing the 1,200-square-foot center saw the Lawrences working with fellow Oregon resident Victor Zaderej of Solar Homes, LLC. “What I’ve found is that a well-insulated thermal envelope is really the most cost-efficient way to reduce energy use,” said Zaderej. With this knowledge, work commenced.

To start with, the thermal envelope began below the ground with 8.5″ of PlastiSpan® EPS insulation beneath the center’s concrete slab. The below grade walls used Advantage® Insulating Concrete Forms (ICFs). Then, Zaderej specified the 12” Insulspan® Structural Insulated Panel (SIP) System for the walls and roof. “The key was that we eliminated all the thermal shorts,” said Zaderaj. “SIPs and ICFs also do a really good job of sealing the home and stopping heat loss through air infiltration.”

“We wanted to get low energy usage and modern day ambient conditions at real market prices.” – Kent Lawrence, Kickapoo/Mud Creek Nature Conservancy

Zaderej also used the center as a testing ground for several innovative techniques to reduce energy use. For example, his patent-pending solar roof uses a fan system to transfer the warm air beneath the building’s metal roof to a network of pipes in the concrete floor. The floor stores and then slowly releases the heat. When combined with the efficiency of the super insulated building envelope, no furnace is necessary. In the end, the building only needs a backup heat source powered by the center’s water heater.

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