by Tom Damm
February 09, 2009
I couldn’t pass up the recent chance to join colleagues from the Chesapeake Bay Program for a short road trip to witness the art of the possible.
Just down the road from Fort Meade in Maryland is an office building that is incorporating the latest in green construction techniques.
It’s called the EnviroCenter, and for good reason. It’s a showcase for ways to protect the environment by harnessing nature – from drawing the energy of the sun to reusing the rain from a storm.
The first clue that innovation was afoot at this converted 1905 farmhouse was the lack of puddles as we pulled into the driveway on a miserably rainy day. A downspout from its green roof was feeding stormwater directly into a lineup of storage containers, and rain was being sucked up by the property’s absorbent surfaces.
With expansion plans in the works that will add a range of new environmental features, the EnviroCenter will even be able to capture stormwater gushing down the highway in front of the building – doing more than its share to corral one of the biggest nemeses of the Chesapeake Bay.
Stormwater carries pollutants and dirt from hard surfaces directly into streams and rivers, fouling the water and the habitat needed by fish and other Bay-dwellers.
The Bay Program is about to launch something called the “No Runoff Challenge” to promote no stormwater runoff from properties. The EnviroCenter is expected to do it one better and actually achieve negative runoff.
Stan Sersen, architect and owner of the EnviroCenter, gave us gawkers a tour of the facility, highlighting the practice-what-we-preach aspects of the construction. He also showed us plans for an attached 7,000-square-foot greenhouse that will allow office tenants to grow their own organic fruits and veggies.
If you have the time, check out the EnviroCenter and its non-profit Green Building Institute to learn about sustainable building practices.