Sunday, April 26, 2015

New Nature Center Poised to Serve and Inspire

A trip out to Rosedale Mills last weekend to buy chicks led us to stop by the Stonybrook Millstone Watershed headquarters to check out their new watershed center. Our quick but very rewarding and uplifting visit offered a sneak preview prior to the Grand Opening this coming Saturday, May 2, from 11-3pm. The extraordinary building goes by the official name of Watershed Center for Environmental Advocacy, Science and Education. Topped with solar panels to generate electricity and hot water, surrounded by raingardens and constructed wetlands, this Platinum LEED structure mixes modern technology with warm earth tones.

When we stopped in, staff were fitting out the interior with environmental displays. A large bank of windows offers a gorgeous view of the constructed pond that's fed by water from the building's roof.

The pond's already begun to attract wildlife that will be easily viewed from inside.

Rainwater flows through a broad swale into the pond. This will be great habitat for all the showy native floodplain wildflowers that make wet, sunny areas prime planting grounds to benefit pollinators.

This looks like an economical form of porous pavement--essentially a grid of thick recycled plastic sitting atop gravel. Grass will grow through the openings, creating a lawn that can withstand the weight of vehicles. Porous pavement is only as porous as the ground beneath it, which is why the plastic matting sits on gravel rather than the local clay.

If you click on this fuzzy photo, you might be able to read the detailed info the Center provides about the porous pavement, which is a substitute for asphalt.

This diagram shows how water is heated by sunlight and then distributed through the building.

A large area some distance from the building is devoted to wastewater treatment.

The wastewater goes through a series of septic tanks, then into an area where the nutrients and water are utilized and purified by plants.

Clicking on this photo will show some of the details. Other features of the building include use of rainwater to flush toilets, and passive ventilation, in which hot air is exhausted through vents near the roof.

It's such a buoying experience to witness a structure that is working with nature rather than against it, now just opening up and ready to serve the Princeton area with learning and inspiration. Follow this link for more info.

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