Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Green Building I Can Love

Entrance sign at the National Cave and Karst Research
Institute.  Water drips along the limestone wall and
sounds like the inside of a cave as it drips.
(photo by Robert Brinkmann, 5/14/11)
Today, the new headquarters of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI) opened in Carlsbad, New Mexico.  Situated in one of the world’s most important karst regions, NCKRI will serve as the leading center for karst research and education in the country.  While NCKRI’s new step in its evolution is exciting and worthy of comment, I have to write about the new headquarters building.  It is truly a building worthy of the title, “Green Building”.  Indeed, in written comments made at the opening, one New Mexican U.S. Senator stated that he hoped the building would be a model for future buildings in the state.

But why do I love this green building so much? 

A view of the back of the NCRKI Headquarters.  The statue of James
Larkin White is in the foreground.  The bat roost is the darker brown area
below the three windows on the second floor of the building.  Note the
cistern on the base of the corner of the building on the left.
(photo by Robert Brinkmann, 5/14/11)
First and foremost, I love it because it is not a technological box.  The building is immensely interesting—while modern, it fits within the look of traditional southwestern architecture in color and style.  But, the building has so many interesting details that make it less like a structure and more like a good book one cannot put down.  There is something interesting everywhere.

Certainly there are lots of technological innovations.  For example, the building uses geothermal heating and cooling, has huge cisterns built into its corners for the capture of rainwater, and has state of the art energy and water saving systems in place.

The Riverwalk adjacent to the Pecos River near
NCKRI's new building (photo by Robert
Brinkmann 5/14/11).
But it is the design and situational elements that bring the building into a realm of greenness that many certified green buildings don’t offer.  First of all, the building is sited on a former brownfield that is part of the broader downtown Carlsbad redevelopment plan to connect the downtown area with the lovely riverwalk park along the Pecos River.  NCKRI’s headquarters is among the first to open within this area called the Cascades.  It is evident that this revisioning of a new Carlsbad is exciting for everyone involved in the process.

The building is designed to fit within this setting in an interesting way.  Its form and colors transform the former railroad switching yard into a comfortable modern landscape that adds visual appeal to the downtown Carlsbad region and that provides an interesting destination point between the riverwalk and the downtown.

Rope climbing training beams designed to integrate with
the building (photo by Robert Brinkmann, 5/14/11).
Some of my favorite design elements of the building are the rope climbing training beams for rappelling demonstrations and training, the wood carved door plates, the benches made of recycled materials, the statue of noted Carlsbad Caverns explorer, James Larkin White, and the cisterns built into the corners of the building.  The educational elements of the building are also excellent.

Did I mention the bat roost? 

There I am pointing out access to the bat roost from inside
the building.  
Perhaps what sets this building aside from any other green building is that a bat roost is built into the building to allow education and research on migrating bats.    The roost is designed so there is access to the roost from inside and outside of the building.  In addition, the roost has built in video monitoring equipment so the roost can be seen and heard to better understand the lives of these important migrating mammals.

I have seen lots of green buildings, but I have rarely seen a building put together so many innovative green technological elements while maintaining design interest.

The building is located at 400-1 Cascades Avenue in Carlsbad, New Mexico.  While the interior of the building is not 100% complete, I am sure the good folks at NCKRI would be pleased to have you visit.  The building is worth a look.

For full disclosure, I am on the Board of NCRKI, but was not on the board while the building and design decisions were made.  I couldn’t be more pleased to be involved with an organization that built one of the greenest and most interesting new buildings in the US.  


Karen Veni said...

This is a wonderful review of that great day, complete with very nice photographs. I'm passing it along to my mom and dad, who didn't get to attend. Thanks. I enjoyed meeting you.

Ms. D ~ The Bohemian Tea Lady said...

Hi Bob! Or should I still call you Dr. Brinkmann? Anyway, I just found your blog and it's great... very informative! I would love to see this wonderful building... and to be a brownfield development is icing on the cake!
Dianne (McCommons) Davies