Efroymson Conservation Center

Designers: Rundell Ernstberger Associates, Axis Architects, The Nature Conservancy | City: Indianapolis, IN | Project Type: sustainable infrastructure, stormwater management, solar, geothermal, wetlands, green roof, wind power, LEED
Date Visited: 10.03.12

Location: 620 E. Ohio Street. Indianapolis, IN
Size: 20,200 sq. ft office building on 1-acre site
Cost: $8 million
Official Opening Date: April 2010

The Efroymson Conservation Center is the first LEED Platinum office building in Indianapolis. A lean, green machine that’s also the Hoosier headquarters of the Nature Conservancy, Efroymson Conservation Center was built on a former industrial site and now serves as a model for future sustainable growth in downtown Indianapolis.

In honor of these successes, the center’s received a number of awards, from the state American Institutes of Architects (AIA) chapter in 2010 to the bestowment of the Award of Excellence from the Indiana Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (INASLA).

With a mission statement “to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends,” the Efroymson Conservation Center is an apt extension of The Nature Conservancy’s vision. The center has the typical sustainable and energy-efficient features such as locally sourced materials (Indiana limestone and hardwood), green roofs, native gardens, living walls, wind turbines, bioswales, geothermal heating and cooling, and permeable parking surfaces.

What makes the Efroymson Conservation Center really stand out, however, is its flagship role and central location in downtown Indianapolis as the city’s most sustainable building that was built for no more than the cost of a traditionally constructed office building. Not only did the center receive the highest level LEED Platinum certification–they just received the LEED Platinum plaque last week–, but they actually exceeded the number of requirements, scoring 56 out of the 52 necessary points.

Starting from the outside in, the center’s landscape was designed by Rundell Ernstberger Associates, the local landscape architecture firm located just a block away, and is entirely composed of Indiana native plants. The Bracken Family Gardens in the back of the center lay claim as “one of the largest and most innovative native landscape designs in Indiana, if not the Midwest.” Consisting of over 14,000 square feet of native landscaping, bioswales, and permeable pavers to mitigate all stormwater runoff onsite, the landscape not only showcases the diversity of the midwest landscape, but is also a great educational resource. The native plantings are organized into groupings that showcase various landscape preserves from the Prairie Border Preserve in Jasper County to the Big Walnut Natural Area in Putnam County.

Opposite the visitor’s education center and the downstairs conference room is the LiveWall system, a 16-foot tall retaining wall made of concrete blocks filled with plant matter such as wintergreen and columbine to mimic the cliffside plant communities commonly found in southern Indiana.

The building was purposefully built long and narrow and faces the north and south in order to receive the most amount of sunlight and minimize artificial light used within the building. Amongst other energy-saving initiatives such as tinted windows, a Smart Lighting System was also implemented to sense and switch on and off based on daylight and motion triggers.

Much of the building was made of recycled materials salvaged from the former warehouse on site such as the brick and timber, which were then refinished for use in custom furnishings such as the reception desk. Educational ‘Green Element’ signs were put up throughout the building to point out sustainable energy systems or materials.

One of the coolest aspects of the building was the raised floor system that helps with energy efficiency. The floor made of concrete panels sits atop two-foot tall metal pedestals. If you lift up one of the black circular air diffusers, you can see the two-foot tall space below; electric wiring as well as heated and cool air flows through the space–it’s more energy efficient because the duct-less system doesn’t need additional blowers.

One Response to “Efroymson Conservation Center”

  1. Adam McLane says:

    Wow! This is one of the best photo and caption depictions of our building that I’ve seen yet! Thanks so much for visiting and sharing our story- terrific work!

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