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Feature Story - June 2007
Sustainable Building and Design

Green Acres

Springs Preserve Restores a Desert Oasis

By Tony Illia

The $250 million Las Vegas Springs Preserve is aiming to be Nevada's first LEED Platinum project. It will provide space for the Nevada State Museum, visitor's center and the Desert Living Center interspersed among restored wetlands.


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The Las Vegas Valley Water District is flexing its green thumb, with a new $250-million complex of energy-efficient buildings and low-water gardens.

The 180-acre Springs Preserve is envisioned as a "Central Park" for Las Vegas. It's located at 333 Valley View Blvd., between Alta Drive and US Highway 95, roughly 3 mi west of downtown.

J.A. Tiberti Construction, Las Vegas, and Whiting-Turner Constructing Co. Inc. of Baltimore, are the general contractors under a $135-million, joint-venture contract. .

The area once provided natural spring water for all of Las Vegas, which means "meadows" in Spanish. The springs eventually dried up and fell into disrepair.

The preserve was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

It's now home to the rare Las Vegas bearpoppy and the endangered desert pocket mouse as well as 104 species of birds, including the red-tailed hawk and the prairie falcon.

The water district has spent the last four years restoring the site and has added education, entertainment and sustainability displays and facilities that raise public awareness about green building practices. The Portico Group of Seattle developed the master plan, with PBS&J of Tampa as consulting engineer.



The Springs Preserve makes its debut this month. The multi-faceted project is seeking LEED Platinum certification from the USGBC which will make it Nevada's only platinum-rated building.

"It's a virtual miracle that a city like Las Vegas can exist and thrive in the middle of one of the most inhospitable and resource-poor climates in the world," says Francis Belan, Springs Preserve director. "This anomaly makes the concept of sustainable living a very relevant topic for Las Vegas."

The parking lot features solar-paneled carports that provide shade for 200 vehicles while generating emission-free electricity. PowerLight Corp. of Berkeley, Calif., is the design-build contractor.

The carports are part of the preserve's $22.6-million photovoltaic system consisting of three separate installations generating a combined 5.3 million kwh of electricity annually.

"Over their 30-year operating life, the solar electric systems will save the equivalent of 5.8 million barrels of oil," says Ingrid Ekstrom, a PowerLight spokesperson. "By avoiding hundreds of tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the project is the equivalent of planting 1,320 acres of trees or not driving over 350 million mi."

The complex additionally contains eight acres worth of low-water gardens, with 20,000 species of drought-tolerant plant life. There will be a $2.2-million, 30-acre "cienega," or desert wetland, designed by Natural Systems International of Santa Fe. It will be created by flood and runoff water and will include three walking trails that encircle the preserve campus.

Designed by C+B Nevada Inc. of Las Vegas, the 2.5 mi worth of trails are partly paved with resin, which, unlike asphalt, lays down cold and deflects heat.

A colorful precast concrete retaining wall bounds the property along U.S. Highway 95, between Valley View Boulevard and Rancho Drive. The .75-mi-long structure, created by Poggmeyer Design Group of Las Vegas, varies from 16 to 21 ft tall, with various graphics representing earth, wind and fire.

Carson Taylor Harvey Inc. of Las Vegas erected the wall under an $11.5 million contract that included other sitework.

"The wall is filled with straw to dampen freeway sound and deflect heat," says Robin Allen, Carson Taylor Harvey's project engineer. "Straw helps stabilize temperatures inside the preserve, creating a microclimate where fragile species can survive."

The jewel of the project is a five-building, dual-level Desert Living Center designed by Lucchesi, Galati Architects of Las Vegas. The $26-million, 46,000-sq-ft complex showcases green building methods, materials and technologies for a desert climate. There are rammed earth and straw bail walls, for example, which lower heating and cooling bills.

An angled roof built with recycled railroad trusses collects rainwater to help irrigate gardens. Walls use alternative insulation such as shredded blue jeans, while other sections demonstrate natural day lighting techniques. The center has towers for evaporative cooling as well as solar panels and a 300-seat outdoor amphitheater.

The complex will house conference and classroom rooms as well as exhibits and a design center.

"We've had a lot more interest in green buildings since we've started this project," says Jeff Roberts, Lucchesi, Galati's project architect. "Although it may cost a little more, clients get excited when they realize that the lower energy costs will affect their bottom line."

Other preserve components include a $36-million, 79,000-sq-ft Nevada State Museum featuring the state's first dinosaur fossils as well as rare manuscripts, documents and photographs. The two-level facility, designed by Paul Steelman Architects of Las Vegas, will consist of interactive and interpretive exhibit and gallery spaces and a gift shop that are double the size of the museum's current location at 700 Twin Lakes Drive in Lorenzi Park.

A two-level, 54,000-sq-ft Visitors Center, designed by Tate Snyder Kimsey Architects of Henderson, consists of two buildings, with a center for guest services, a retail shop, ticketing and restaurants. The other portion has interactive exhibits, a 150-seat theater, and a gallery rotunda with exhibits.

The structures use recycled, low-maintenance materials such as weathered steel siding, lime-based plaster and carpet made from recycled pop bottles.

The preverve also features a 2,000-seat outdoor amphitheater, 6,000-sq-ft maintenance facility and a children's interpretative playground area with a sandbox, climbable desert ravine rocks and oversized wildlife structures.

Bio-filtration ponds will reclaim wastewater onsite that will be filtered and reused to irrigate plants and flush toilets. Additional preserve pieces include a 20-million-gallon partially buried water reservoir and pumping station, plus an orientation commons gathering area.

"The Springs Preserve is going to educate and entertain people on water and energy conservation, and the benefits of embracing a sustainable lifestyle," says Jesse Davis, a project spokesman. "It promotes a better understanding of environmental practices for homeowners, commercial builders and educators."


Key Players

Developer: Las Vegas Valley Water District

Design: The Portico Group; Lucchesi,
Galati Architects; Paul Steelman

Architects; Tate Snyder Kimsey Architects;
Poggmeyer Design Group;C+B Nevada

General Contractors: J.A. Tiberti Construction;
Whiting-Turner Constructing Co.

Engineer: PBS&J

Other: PowerLight Corp.; Carson Taylor Harvey


Useful Sources
www.springspreserve.org





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