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The Juliana Lachat Conservation Center
Weston, CT

The Conservation Center is multi-purpose building complex at the center of the Gateway to the Devil’s Den project for the Nature Conservancy and the Town of Weston. Designed to attain LEED Gold certification, the Center provides a Visitor Center, classrooms, storage and utility spaces. The Visitor Center has an entry lobby with an information desk and space for educational and interpretive displays, meeting areas for indoor and outdoor programming, public meeting space for up to 100 persons, and shared toilet facilities. The Classroom facilities accommodate up to 60 students, are sub dividable into three smaller spaces, and have a wet lab, lab tables, counters, computer workstations, storage and support spaces.

Guiding principles for the building design include the following:
• Maintain the rural and agricultural character of the property while creating a distinctive presence for the center.
• Provide an enriching environmental setting to teach, learn, work and visit that will energize and inspire users and visitors.
• Design new construction for minimum energy and resource use over time.
• Optimize the use of renewable energy and materials.
• Minimize waste and pollution.
• Employ appropriate technology. Generally, use the simplest, most economical, currently available technology necessary for any given task. Possibly demonstrate more advanced or complex technologies for educational purposes.
• Make selection and decisions based primarily on life cycle costing. Emphasize durability and simplicity.

The different functions and uses of the Conservation Center are combined into a single building with varied massing inspired by connected barn structures once common in New England. The design fits aesthetically with the rural character of the property, minimizes the building footprint and resulting site disturbance, and allows for shared mechanical systems and utility spaces.

The Conservation Center is designed to benefit from passive solar gain, extensive daylighting, natural ventilation, night-time flushing, and no conventional air conditioning.
Radiant in-floor heating is provided by hot water from a shared, wood-pellet boiler housed in an existing farmhouse. In order to reduce the heating and cooling loads, the building envelope is designed as a super insulated, low infiltration envelope, with high efficiency windows and doors. Roof mounted photovoltaic panels provide on-site, renewable energy. All of the building construction and systems are designed to attain a net-zero energy goal, (i.e. the building creates as much energy as it consumes). This project was designed in conjunction with Edgcomb Design Group of Warren, VT.