Emily Zhang

The LEED Platinum center is designed for resiliency.

Feature image courtesy of Prakash Patel/SmithGroupJJR.

For those traveling to Virginia Beach this summer, the LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge-certified Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Brock Environmental Center is a must-see destination. The winner of the Exceptional Leadership Award at the 2018 USGBC Virginia Leadership Awards, the Brock Environmental Center demonstrates a high level of leadership in all facets of sustainable design.

Sustainable strategies for a coastal landscape

The center, completed in November 2014, houses the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Hampton Roads staff and their education, outreach, advocacy and restoration initiatives. The project was a form of advocacy in itself, representing a successful effort in preserving Virginia Beach’s 118-acre Pleasure House Point area from surrounding development projects. The center is situated on an ecologically sensitive site, so a top priority for the building’s design was to minimize impact on the coastal inlet landscape.

The Brock Center employs a wide variety of sustainable strategies as part of its mission to preserve the environment and promote a healthy space for the public to enjoy. It filters stormwater from the surrounding area, using two 650-gallon cisterns and a rain garden to capture diverted water and general rainwater. The center was also the first space in the country to receive a commercial permit for drinking treated rainwater in accordance with federal requirements and guidelines. Today, 100 percent of water consumed on-site is treated rainwater, requiring no use of municipal water sources.

Reuse and resiliency

The project’s design team also prioritized reuse and salvage in the majority of materials and finishes. The interior maple flooring came from a local gym, while all other interior wood trim came from salvaged school bleachers. The exterior wood siding originates from remnants of 19th century logging recovered from river bottoms.

In an effort to keep car pollution from affecting the sensitive landscape, The Center promotes sustainable transportation by encouraging bicycling and carpooling. There is no parking on-site, aside from ADA spaces, so the majority of guests are asked to park on nearby roads and walk through a nature trail or take shuttle buses to the site.

Brock Environmental Center

The Brock Center in the aftermath of Hurricane Joaquin in Fall 2015. Photo credit: Christopher Gorri (CBF).

As the effects of climate change intensify severe weather events in Virginia, the building’s resiliency was also a critical component of its design. The center is raised 14 feet above sea level in anticipation of storm surges and is designed to weather hurricane effects such as windborne debris. When Hurricane Joaquin hit the area in fall 2015, the local sea level rose six and a half feet above normal conditions, putting the Brock Center to the test. With its resilient design features, it passed, with no signs of damage.

Moving forward, the Brock Center staff and project team hope building will continue to serve as a model for new construction in Virginia Beach and other coastal areas. USGBC Virginia offers regular education sessions at the Brock Center, as part of a partnership with CBF. Join us at a future event to experience this fantastic space for yourself.

View upcoming USGBC Virginia education and networking events