WORTH THE DRIVE: Centerville, Indiana is home to one of only two dozen ‘living’ buildings in the world

Credit: Cope Environmental Center

Credit: Cope Environmental Center

Recently, the Cope Environmental Center’s Environmental Education Center building earned the center an international distinction as being only the 29th building in the world to be fully certified as a “living building” from the International Living Futures Institute.

According to Georgia Tech, a living building is a structure that “generates all of its own energy, captures and treats its water, and operates cleanly and efficiently in harmony with nature.”

The Cope Environmental Center, located in Centerville, Indiana (just an hour away from downtown Dayton), opened in 1992 by Jim and Helen Cope. The couple spent 50 years pursuing a sustainable lifestyle that involved the use of alternative energy, energy conservation, composting and organic gardening on their 30 acres of land in Centerville. They ultimately partnered with Francis Parks, a botanist, horticulturist and conservationist, to create the Cope Environmental Center that would give permanent protection to their land and a chance for them to teach others what they had learned about sustainable living.

Nearly three decades later, the center offers visitors plenty of chances to interact with nature via numerous hiking trails that traverse wetlands and prairies and programs for children and adults, particularly a lecture series and full moon hikes.

Along with being one of only 29 “living” buildings in the world, the Cope Environmental Center’s Environmental Education Center is the first and only living building in Indiana and Ohio. What exactly is a living building, you ask?

Credit: Picasa

Credit: Picasa

To earn full certification as a living building in the Living Building Challenge, the Environmental Education Center met strict criteria in seven focus areas, which are called petals. According to the Richmond/Wayne County Convention & Tourism Bureau, these petals are the following:

  • Petal 1 – Site: For every acre used for construction, an equal acre of previously unprotected land must be placed under a conservation easement and restored to natural vegetation.
  • Petal 2 – Net Zero Water: Water usage on-site must not be more than the rainwater/groundwater recharge amount on the footprint of the construction.
  • Petal 3 – Net Zero Energy: Must produce all the energy they consume.
  • Petal 4 – Health: Health of visitors and staff are considered.
  • Petal 5 – Local, Sustainable, Nontoxic Materials: All materials used in the construction are human and environmental friendly. A list of 19 “red list chemicals” are avoided.
  • Petal 6 – Equity: Equal access to nature for all people.
  • Petal 7 – Beauty: Create buildings that elevates spirits through aesthetically pleasing design.

With this achievement under its belt, the Cope Environmental Center can now claim to be home to the greenest building in this portion of the Midwest. The Environmental Education Center features a welcome hall, a nature hall (boasting great views of the nearby scenery), a classroom, a gathering place and office spaces.

To visit the Environmental Education Center or to learn more about the Cope Environmental Center, pay a visit to the center’s website.

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