Design of an Educational Center for Kingman and Heritage Islands in Washington, D.C. begins with an appreciation of the richness of the place. Washington is located at a confluence of two rivers where they cascade through the Fall Zone of the Eastern US and the Piedmont gives way to the Coastal Plain.
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Sustainable Architecture Concept
The Anacostia flows into another tidal river, the Potomac, as it works its way across the Coastal Plain to the Chesapeake Bay. It is part of the largest estuary on the continent, a watershed that draws from far and wide and flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Kingman and Heritage Islands lie in the Anacostia River at that part of the Coastal Plain known as the Lowlands – a flat, low-relief region along major rivers that is abundant with Riparian forests and wetlands.
Riparian wetlands are characterized by plant species adapted to periodic flooding and/or saturated soils. They support a high diversity of plant and animal species. More energy and materials, borne by moving water, pass through riparian ecosystems than any other wetland ecosystem. These critical areas control the rate of surface runoff, filter waste and excess nutrients from groundwater, and store water to mitigate flooding. They provide shade on land and water, providing natural habitat and places of beauty for recreation. Estuarine wetlands, like those around Kingman and Heritage Islands, experience periodic flooding by ocean-driven tides. Wildlife here include salt-tolerant grasses, brackish fish, shellfish, waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds and several mammals.
Many other birds alight here along the Atlantic Flyway. Conversion of these Riparian zones to other land uses has contributed to ecological problems in our waterways and the Chesapeake Bay including sedimentation, nutrient and toxic chemical pollution, and reduction of fish habitat.
Immersed in the heart of the islands, Proposed Site B offers the best connection to the various habitats while being separated enough from the noise and turmoil of Benning Road and the RFK parking lot area. An educational center here can be integrated into the proposed site plan for the 9/11 memorial and take advantage of the high ground for panoramic views.
The southwestern slope of the Proposed Meadow is well situated for solar access, and has a channel that gently slopes down to Kingman Lake. Summer breezes may be directed into the “bowl” here while land forms and trees shield the northerlies of winter.
ARCHITECTURE + ECOSYSTEMS INTERTWINE
Let this place exemplify human settlement as a part of the evolving matrix of nature. Develop the site in such a way that the cycles of nature and the cycles of man are not at odds with each other. When we do this, people are happier and healthier, ecosystems are sustained and regenerated. The Kingman Island Environmental Education Center will be designed to intertwine with adjacent ecosystems, mimicking natural flows and exhibiting this for children and adults alike. Like the Cusano Nature Center in Philadelphia, Kingman will make use of passive strategies for heating/cooling/ventilating and regenerate wetlands. These “constructed wetlands” will work with a “Living Machine” to demonstrate habitat restoration and natural forms of wastewater treatment.
The organic lines of a building built into the earth will mesh with the development of the 9/11 memorial and make a more cohesive whole. It rises from the landscape to offer a place from which to view the islands, the lake, the river, and the city around them.
Cycle of Water in Natural, Sustainable, and Conventional systems
LOW IMPACT DEVELOPMENT: Passive strategies such as thermal masses in the floors, tromb walls, sunscreens, and screen plantings will help keep the building comfortable in all seasons. Backup systems will use a geothermal loop in the earth for clean, inexpensive heating and cooling sources. The sun’s endless free energy will be harnessed with PV’s for electricity and panels for solar hot water. Natural ventilation completes cycle and avoids putting a strain on the environment.
Daylighting strategies will keep the interiors well-lit while affording views and ventilation. Efficient lighting fixtures on dimmers will assure low electricity usage and help to avoid a buildup of heat on the interior.
LOW IMPACT DEVELOPMENT : Green roofs, pervious paving, and integrated landscaping with bioswales and rain gardens manage stormwater on site and assist in groundwater recharge. The cycle of water continues with rainwater harvesting for use in the facility. Greywater is recycled while wastewater flows into the Living Machine and constructed wetlands for treatment. When it reaches Kingman Lake, it will be clean enough to drink.
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