Monday, July 25, 2016

Sustainability and the Jester Park Nature Center

Conservation and sustainability go hand-in-hand, and the Jester Park Nature Center will be a model for the merger of these concepts. The foundation on which the Center will be built revolves around the idea of creating an inviting space for visitors to not only learn about the natural world but also ways to sustain modern living in an ecologically responsible manner

The center will demonstrate and educate visitors on the value of sustainable construction of a modern space. The goal is to provide an example of common practices that people may incorporate into their own homes and businesses. The Jester Park Nature Center's overall objective is to minimize the impact of the built environment on both human health and the natural environment in which it exists. This will be accomplished by efficiently using energy, water and other resources; by reducing waste, pollution and environmental degradation; and by protecting occupant health and improving employee productivity.

Some of the principle features of sustainability and healthy building practices that will be built into the framework of the Jester Park Nature Center include:

Natural Daylighting, LED Lighting and Occupancy Sensors

Besides its many aesthetically pleasing attributes, utilizing natural lighting from the sun touts many other benefits such as increasing productivity and comfort of a space for occupants, balance natural human circadian rhythms, and substantially lower energy usage. 

However, daylight is quite variable and unpredictable on both the daily and seasonal scale and is dependent on current weather conditions and solar position. Enter in the benefits of LED lighting!

LED (light-emitting diode) lighting represents a big leap in the lighting industry. These bulbs are highly efficient in terms of energy usage and are long-lasting, using around 75% less energy and lasting 25 times longer than an incandescent bulb ( LEDs are “directional” light sources which means they emit light in a specific direction, unlike incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs which emit light - and heat - in all directions. For this reason, LED lighting is able to use light and energy more efficiently. Occupancy sensors will then further complement energy usage and lighting plans for the Center by detecting when occupants are utilizing space and promptly shut off lighting when none are detected.
Geothermal Heating and Cooling, and Thermal Building Enclosure

A geothermal heat pump system will provide heating and cooling for the Center. This type of system uses the natural insulating properties of the earth to circulate water or liquids through buried coils that are warmed or cooled by the ground temperature. Ground source heat pump systems are over 40% more efficient than traditional heating and cooling systems.

Heating and cooling doesn't end with the unit used to supply a climate controlled environment.  Current building codes require a minimum rating in terms of insulation of walls and roofs by way of  their resistance to heat flow (R-value). A higher R-value denotes great insulating power. The building will be constructed with higher R-values than is required of insulation to further enhance the efficiency of the building. 

Parkitecture and Water Conservation 
The term "parkitecture" implies that a building’s aesthetic is sensitive to the natural surroundings; that the building becomes a part of the natural setting. Native plantings will not only serve this purpose, beautify the outside of the Center and educate the public on the benefits of native landscapes, but it will put education into practice. The use of native vegetation in rain gardens and bioswales on the grounds of the Center will act as an effective natural filter to remove pollution and remediate erosion that travels over the land in stormwater runoff. Water from rain or melting snow running off of the Center site will be filtered in these bioswales before entering into the watershed further downstream. 

You and every visitor that will pass through our front doors will be part of our bond, our legacy and our responsibility to the land. These features of the Jester Park Nature Center and more represent a model of  applicable building practices. It is our hope that the Jester Park Nature Center will serve to plant seeds of inspiration in each visitor to lead a more ecologically responsible lifestyle when they return home. 


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Find Your Home at the Jester Park Nature Center

The Jester Park Nature Center will exist as a means to connect you, the visitor, to a sense of stewardship, ownership as well as a sense of place within the land in which you reside. Surrounded by prairie, woodland and wetland environments, the Center will encourage exploration of the various habitats representative of the Iowa landscape. Time inside the Center will inspire you to get outside by creating an integrated transition between indoors and outdoors, and to explore and recreate in the great outdoors of Iowa in a safe and responsible manner. Cultivating appreciation of Iowa's diverse natural habitats is to create an understanding of where we are in the grand scheme of things as interconnected parts of a great web of biodiversity. We are not apart from nature but rather a part of it.

Both the layout and site of the Jester Park Nature Center have been specifically chosen to maximize the experience for the visitor. As you enter the building, explore the hands-on interactive exhibits and displays that immerse the participant in the diverse habitats spread across Iowa. Layers of embedded discovery and unexpected surprises await the eager student of the natural world, no matter the age. The goal of the Center is to bring many connected aspects of the outdoors inside one location where these concepts are readily available and accessible.

Visitors will be able to connect patterns and make associations which leads to a deeper level of learning once interest and curiosity has been piqued. The Center will provide a launching point into three vital habitats spread across Iowa. Once a general understanding of the means by which prairie, woodland and aquatic ecosystems are interconnected, visitors can then step right outside the building to experience these natural areas and put their newfound knowledge into practice through exploration. Inspired and educated by their experiences within the exhibits and classrooms, visitors can go outside and partake in their own Jester Park adventure.

"Through interpretation, understanding; through understanding, appreciation; through appreciation, protection." -- Freeman Tilden

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Education, the Environment, and the Jester Park Nature Center

Education represents a vital part of the foundation of Polk County Conservation and our mission here in central Iowa. For more than 35 years, Polk County Conservation environmental educators have been providing quality environmental education programming to people of all ages in the Greater Des Moines area. Recognized as one the fasted growing urban populations in the Midwest, there is an increased need and public demand for environmental education programming in our dynamic community.

More than 276,000 individuals have participated in one of PCC's environmental education programs in the past eight years. When the Jester Park Nature Center opens its doors, programming numbers are expected to double. The Center will benefit visitors in a variety of ways by:

...year-round environmental education opportunities 

...with interpretive exhibits on the importance of biodiversity, water quality, and conservation of natural resources

...through enhanced STEM-based (Science, Technology, Engineering, and  Math) programming

Promoting health through increased outdoor skills programming and increased time in nature

...rental equipment such as cross country skis, snowshoes, insect nets and fishing poles

...a destination site for tourists to engage in outdoor discover


Partnering with local schools will be a crucial component as relevance of conservation and sustainability to STEM studies will be highlighted at the Jester Park Nature Center. An important part of these partnerships includes immersing students into the natural environment through field trips.

During the 2014-2015 school year, PCC naturalists led a total of 125 field trips, involving 702 programs and 8,959 students. Teachers are provided tangible, hands-on experience outside of the confines of a classroom through these trips. This, in turn, enhances topics covered in the classroom by actively engaging students in exploration of the arena in which natural processes are played out. Learning objectives are met while having fun in the great outdoors - a true win-win scenario for both the student and teacher as well as the naturalists here at Polk County Conservation.

The Center will also provide year-round indoor classrooms that will facilitate learning about the natural world even in inclement weather. Classrooms and common areas will create a welcoming environment for our naturalists to capture the minds, hearts and imagination of visitors of all ages.

Designed with our educational and environmental missions in mind, the Jester Park Nature Center will fill a need felt throughout the state of Iowa. It will serve as a portal to outdoors and a gateway for learning for students from all walks and stages of life.