Springs Preserve Restores a Desert Oasis
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Other: PowerLight Corp.; Carson Taylor Harvey
Click here for next Feature Story >>