South Dartmouth – The Lloyd Center has a problem.
It’s too popular for its size.
The Center serves as many as 15,000 students annually from all over southern New England and beyond. Its offerings include traveling programs, research efforts and nature exhibits. In fact, the grounds and resources are so highly sought after by schools during the academic year that wait lists and capacity limitations are issues.
This growing need for environmental education is why the Board of Directors of the Lloyd Center for the Environment has embarked on a $3 million campaign, called Transforming A Legacy.
“Expansion has always been part of our long-term plan. Our staff has grown and renovations have been done. At this point, we’ve done all we can do to maximize the space we have,” said Rachel Stronach, Executive Director of the Center since 2013.
The plans are set to become a reality this fall.
First, a well-line will be installed in the main building, which will provide a public water supply for visitors.
Almost $1.5 million of the Transforming A Legacy campaign will upgrade the infrastructure of the main building, and the facilities will also be expanded with a brand new Welcome Center.
Besides reducing wait lists and having more space for programming, Stronach said more schools and visitors will be attracted to the Center’s new resources. “We will be able to accommodate demand and better serve our mission,” she said. “We have schools that we’ve worked with for 20-30 years, and we’re adding new schools to our programming regularly.”
As previously reported, students from Greater New Bedford Regional-Technical High School will construct the Welcome Center with a design intended to exceed most major certifications for energy efficiency and green construction standards.
The goal of the green construction standards is to achieve Living Building Challenge (LBC) accreditation, an international performance-based standard for passive house building signifying the structure has regenerative or Net Positive, status. Not only will the building yield zero carbon emissions and reclaim all water used, but it will also produce at least 5 percent more energy than it consumes.
Once completed, the Center will undergo rigorous testing of the air quality over the course of a year before it is able to obtain an LBC ranking. “If we can build healthy, regenerative buildings to an LBC standard, and make them super energy efficient, the Center can really get in front of this energy equation,” explained Katherine Duff, director of Studio2Sustain, an architecture and consultant firm overseeing construction of the Welcome Center.
GNB Tech students began preliminary framing work on-site in the spring, but summer break halted additional participation from students due to the inability to attain committed schedules. “The students are excited to be a part of this. They’ll be able to commit full-time in the fall,” said Duff.
Beginning this month, students will physically build and install all components of the center; this includes all the rooftop solar panels, R-60+ insulation, triple-pane windows, framing, drywall and sheathing, electrical wiring, lighting, compost toilets, plumbing, and a grey water treatment system, in place of a standard septic leaching field, that will be distributed into a raised garden of assorted native ground covering grass and flora.
The date of completion for the Welcome Center is summer 2018. “The Welcome Center will encapsulate our mission. It will be a model for community members and students to see what you can do with a building to make it more efficient,” said Stronach.
The Lloyd Center used the summertime to lay down all concrete and foundation work for the Welcome Center, as well as finalize all site drainage.
Procurement of building materials has been especially challenging due to very strict vetting standards LBC has regarding “red list” or hazardous chemicals. It’s a long list of substances, but since the Welcome Center will be well-above building code for insulation and have an air-tight membrane, the omitting of red list substances is especially crucial. One unexpected delay involved acquiring plywood that doesn’t contain any formaldehyde.
“Apparently there are only two suppliers in North America with this plywood,” Duff said. The amount the center needs was not enough to have an order directly shipped by truck. “We needed to wait until a larger order was placed by someone else nearby so a truck could bring our order.”
Completion of the Welcome Center will coincide with the beginning of the Lloyd Center’s next project: renovating the main building.
Original to the inception of the Lloyd Center, the 39 year-old building will undergo a deep-energy retrofit, meaning the entire building envelope will be reinsulated, and lighting, plumbing, and HVAC systems will be upgraded to high-efficiency standards.
An early conservative estimate for the main building has a 4-7 year rate of return for the cost of the retrofit and a 50 percent reduction in utility and operation costs.
“We want to get as close to net-zero and a passive house as we can with the main building,” said Stronach. A lot of the materials procured for the Welcome Center were bought in bulk so that they also could be used in the main building.
Spaces in the building will expand and exhibits will be redistributed.
“We’re not adding a lot more area to the building, but we’re making the spaces more usable,” said Duff, who is also overseeing the redesign of the main building.
More entrances will be created for the building, as well as easier access to the butterfly gardens. The renovations will have the basement opened up to include more classrooms and research facilities. The garage area for the school vans will be converted into an educational materials area allowing staff more space and time to prepare their vehicles for trips to schools. In addition, a public deck will be installed at the top of the building.
A contractor has not yet been awarded the main building. Final bids won’t start until October with the installation beginning in summer 2018.
Duff, who is also an officer for the Lloyd Center, said she has the same level of excitement for these projects as she did when Transforming A Legacy began. “We have a ways to go. To me, the actual construction is just the final phase in what has been years in the making.”