The Little River Canyon Center, Alabama’s newest public building, is also among the “greenest” buildings in the state.

Architect Jay Jenkins said, “We know it is the ‘greenest’ in Northeast Alabama and ranks among the top 3 percent in the state.”

Pete Conroy, director of the center, is also pleased that the facility “green,” or environmentally friendly.

Efforts were made from land preparation to structure completion “to be as considerate of the environment as possible.”

In fact, many changes in the parking area were made to avoid cutting trees. When a land preparation work team leader told Conroy “if the driveway turns there, we’ll have to cut that big tree on the corner,

Conroy was heard to say “Change it; don’t cut the tree.”

Jenkins said, “We lost 15 parking places, but it was a conscious decision not to cut any more trees than absolutely necessary. Jackson Paving, an area company, was very cooperative in that matter.”

Conroy likes to point out that a wooden sculpture displayed in the lobby was created from a tree that was blown down during a severe storm. A local artist carved water animals on the tree trunk.

In the men’s rooms, urinals are waterless, saving an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 gallons of water each year, or about 1 to 1.6 gallons of water per flush.

All of the faucets in the comfort stations are automatic (motion sensitive) to reduce water waste.

Light switches throughout the center are automatic. When someone walks into a room, the lights turn on; when the room is vacated, the lights turn off, reducing unnecessary electricity use.

The building is cooled and heated with geo-thermal energy. A series of 36 wells, each about eight inches in diameter, extend 300 feet below ground level.

Within the wells is a closed—loop system of pipes filled with a glycol solution. As the glycol circulates downward, its temperature assumes the earth temperature at that depth, a constant 57.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

That warmed glycol then circulates through the 17 geo-thermal units in the center. Only a minimal amount of electricity is needed by heat pumps to bring the room temperature to “comfortable,” no matter what the outdoor temperature happens to be.

“We conserved every bit of nature that we could,” he said.

Numerous special construction methods and materials were used to conserve energy use in the building and to prevent damage to the earth. Jenkins said, “Instead of using natural rock, architectural stone was used for the exterior and in several interior spaces of the building.”

The stone looks natural, but “it weighs about 30 percent less than natural rock. It is made of concrete and is hand-tinted,” Jenkins said.

There are more than 80 different shapes of architectural stone in and on the center.

Conroy said, “There is another advantage for the architectural stone. We didn’t have to blast a side of a mountain to get real rock.”

Jenkins said, “The flooring of the rear deck is made from a mixture of recycled plastic (bottles) and wood fibers. Thus, it should be maintenance-free.

“Recycled and crushed glass is used for counter tops. The large compass on the front veranda also has some recycled glass; it is a terrazzo-style with epoxy.”

The comfort stations — restrooms — are furnished to conserve energy and water.

Dyson hand dryers, donated by the company, are in both the women’s and men’s rooms. Users place their hands into the machine and get both sides dried at the same time. The process is quicker than with conventional air dryers.

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