Just before we left Park City, we stopped for a tour of the Swaner EcoCenter. This past weekend was supposed to be the center’s grand opening, but construction and other delays have pushed back the gala event until 2009. Nevertheless, we sought out (in advance) and received a private tour of the unfinished building.
After two beautiful and mostly sunny days, we were greeted by a very rainy and raw Monday morning. The center was a perfect refuge from the storm brewing outside. A pre-tour visit to the center website showed a really cool video of the construction process. I was immediately drawn in and wanted to learn more. The center sits on the 1200 acre Swaner Nature Preserve.
The video seemed to imply that the center was in the middle of nowhere, or at least somewhere deep in the wilderness. When we realized that it was a stone’s throw from a hotel, a Best Buy, a Whole Foods Market, a bunch of other gussied up strip mall shops, and the freeway…then we appreciated the center and preserve even more. I guess they could have just paved all that grass land and built more luxury condominiums for well heeled ski bums. I don’t mean to be harsh. Development happens, but smart development rarely does.
At least this one building is making an effort to do things a little bit better. It was sited properly, powered by a solar PV system, loaded with recycled materials (e.g. beams reclaimed from the Great Salt Lake, denim insulation, sunflower seed counters, coal combustion by-product floors, bamboo floors, nice windows, etc.), and meant to be light on the environment. Even the rain water pouring down on the roof during our tour was being collected in a giant cistern to be used again. The center is well on its way towards achieving USGBC LEED Platinum certification. It seemed as if cost was no object.
We were suitably impressed with the building and the mission of the center, which now includes educating the public about green building techniques and other eco-friendly practices. Apparently, when it is done, it will be the “greenest” building in Utah and one of the greenest in the world. Like great art, our society needs more examples like this so that the rest of us can draw inspiration and apply a little bit of the knowledge gained in our own little world.