The recent release of the Johnson Controls Energy
Efficiency Indicator revealed that 60 percent of U.S. facilities
plan on investing in energy efficiency building improvements over
the next year. Most facilities are implementing measures that require
little investment: training staff, adjusting HVAC controls and installing
energy efficient lighting.
Some organizations, however, are going above and beyond to make
their facilities green.
The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, situated on 185 acres along the
shores of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, WI, promotes an appreciation,
understanding and stewardship of natural resources through environmental
education and sanctuary preservation. The center’s board of
directors began planning for the new green learning center, which
opened in 2003, years in advance by putting benchmarks in place
to measure the financial benefit of constructing a sustainable building.
“With our environmental mission in mind, we decided to walk
the talk and build a sustainable and environmentally friendly facility,”
said Elizabeth Cheek, the center’s executive director. “Working
with donated funds means being answerable to those who donate them,
and as a teaching facility, part of the project’s payback
is using the greening process and the building itself as a learning
The center’s architects researched various resources for sustainable
design, choosing the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership
in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program because of its
measurement tools and benchmarks for monitoring long-term benefits.
“After attending a LEED conference at Johnson Controls, I
was impressed with and had a better understanding of the program,”
The Center selected the Metasys building management system to monitor
and control the facility’s energy-consuming systems, including
HVAC and lighting. The system enables a variety of energy saving
measures, such as installing magnetic locks on windows that disengage
when natural ventilation is preferred. When a window opens, the
system automatically shuts down the HVAC in that zone, saving energy.
The Metasys system also controls a series of heat pumps and heat
recovery units associated with a geothermal system. The center draws
energy from 90 groundwater wells and the earth’s temperature
to provide heating and cooling, lessening dependence on fossil fuels.
Other green, energy saving features of the building include the
extensive use of natural light. The center’s specially designed
and placed window systems reduce energy needed for lighting, and
a 12-kilowatt photovoltaic solar power system supplies a significant
portion of the building’s electricity. A low-flow plumbing
system reduces water usage.
The new 35,000-square-foot learning center provides much needed
space for classrooms, an enlarged auditorium, new exhibits, a nature
store, improved access for individuals with disabilities and a nature
preschool—the first of its kind in Wisconsin.
The center offers public tours and seminars demonstrating the sustainable
features of the building and holds sustainability classes for high
school and junior high school students. The center even weaves the
importance of protecting the environment into its preschool classes.
Local universities use the facility as a learning tool for future
Because of its commitment to sustainability, the center was awarded
a LEED Gold rating. “We already have visions of achieving
the Platinum rating under the LEED for Existing Buildings program,”
Paul Von Paumgartten is the director of energy and environmental
affairs at Johnson Controls Inc.