The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach has achieved one of the toughest building standards in the world– Living Building Challenge certification.
With its solar panels and residential wind turbines producing nearly twice as much energy as the building has used, the Center has far surpassed expectations since its completion in late 2014. Built to be beautiful as well as environmentally friendly, the Brock Center is also the first commercial building in the continental United States permitted to capture and treat rainfall for use as drinking water.
“We’re extremely honored to receive Living Building Challenge certification,” said CBF President Will Baker. “At the Brock Center, we set out to show that a building can have remarkable benefits for both the environment and the community. Now it’s a proven concept. All of us have the choice to be sustainable in how we build.”
With its solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal wells, rain cisterns for drinking water, waterless toilets, and natural landscaping, the center is an international model for energy- and water-efficiency. Elevated 14 feet above sea level, it is also a prototype for coping with climate change in a region increasingly prone to flooding.
Living Building Challenge certification from the International Living Future Institute requires a building to produce more energy than it uses over the course of 12 consecutive months and meet a host of other strict criteria for water use, location, health, materials, equity, and beauty. The Brock Center completed its yearlong evaluation period in April.
“The Brock Environmental Center is extraordinary in its achievement of the Living Building Challenge, having met all of the criteria after demonstrating a year of performance,” said Amanda Sturgeon, CEO of the International Living Future Institute. “Pushing the envelope with living buildings like the Brock Center is key to creating a truly sustainable future.”
The results have been remarkable. Electrical hook-up fees for the 10,500 square foot building add up to only about $17.19 per month, the minimum fee to tie into the grid. In fact, in the past year the Center has produced about 83 percent more energy than it has used. The building also uses 90 percent less water than a typical office building of its size. And as a result of conservation efforts and innovative technologies, the building uses 80 percent less energy than a typical building that size.
“The Brock Center has become a game-changing teaching tool. People are eagerly learning that it is possible for each of us to make a difference and reverse our negative impact on the natural environment,” said CBF Vice President of Administration Mary Tod Winchester. “When you visit the Brock Center, it will provide you with at least one take away for how you can give back to our environment.”
The Brock Center is open to the public for tours. Since its grand opening a year and a half ago, it has had more than 30,000 visitors.
Located at Pleasure House Point, the building houses CBF’s Hampton Roads staff and that of Lynnhaven River NOW, a Virginia Beach watershed organization. It also houses CBF’s award-winning environmental education programs in Hampton Roads and features meeting space for community discussions and collaboration. Partnering with CBF to create the center were SmithGroupJJR, Hourigan Construction, Skanska, WPL Site Design, and J. Harrison, Architect.
“We couldn’t have done this without the help of the elected officials and the community in Virginia Beach,” Baker said. “I’m especially grateful for strong support from Joan and Macon Brock, Jane Batten, and Harry Lester. Their leadership made the Brock Center possible.”