As the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches and the Gulf oil spill remains on everyone's mind, any bit of good green news out of the Gulf Coast region is more than welcome. The Grand Bay Coastal Resources Center, which is the headquarters for the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve as well as the home of the Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge staff, recently became one of Mississippi's greenest buildings when it was awarded LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Grand Bay National Wildlife RefugeThe 20,000 square-foot facility sits on a piece of land that was covered by 10 feet of water post-Katrina. Now the building, which is jointly operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, focuses on preserving the marsh, waters, and coastal wetlands of the area.

“The Center is about creating a community for coastal research, so in order to achieve the feeling of community, the facility is designed with five wings that create a large courtyard with amphitheater-style seating for outdoor education and mingling,” said Joe Greco, Lord, Aeck & Sargent president and the building’s project designer. “It’s a grouping of smaller building components united through a mission to save the coastal habitat and educate visitors – adults and children – about the ecology and habitat of the region.”

The building features a comprehensive water conservation system that will allow the facility to use about 76 percent less potable water than comparable buildings. To achieve this level of water reduction, the building employs a rainwater collection system that is then used in the building's toilets as well as to wash the salt water from research boats used by the staff. The building also uses an onsite bio-filtration wastewater system that is capable of handling up to 1,200 gallons of water per day.

As is common with green buildings, the Grand Bay Coastal Resources Center also employs several energy saving features including the use of tilted awnings on east and west windows to reduce the heat generated by direct sunlight, functioning windows that can let in fresh air and minimize air conditioning use, and a highly reflective metal roof that will feature a solar array once funds are secured.

This area was already hit hard by one hurricane and this fact was addressed in the building's construction. The building is elevated, natural daylight is available in 86 percent of the center, and the windows are rated to handle winds of 150 miles per hour. If the power goes out, which it often does during a hurricane, this building will remain livable.

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