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A V i s i o n f o r t h e F u t u r e • F e b r u a r y 2 0 11

the Prairie Ecology Center The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc. W61 N617 Mequon Avenue, Cedarburg, WI 53012

Prairie Ecology Center

Contents “ be a vehicle for understanding and appreciating the natural wonders in our own backyards.� - Prairie Ecology Center Mission

2 Introduction 3 The Prairie Ecology Center Story 4 Building for the Future 5 The Master Planning Process Process Overview Strategic and Business Planning Interpretive Planning Site & Facility Planning 10 Pattern Writing 13 Conceptual Building Diagrams + Images Site Plan Floor Plan Building Section Exterior Views Interior Views 24 Contact Information

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Prairie Ecology Center

Introduction The Case for Environmental Education in our Region Despite living in a region focused on rural agriculture, many young people in Southwestern Minnesota are increasingly disconnected from the natural world, have little tangible connection to the land, and lack even basic knowledge of local ecosystems and their importance. Currently, this region of the state has no true nature center to call its own, other than the Prairie Ecology Center. There are many nature centers throughout Minnesota, but they are concentrated within or near to the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, and in southeastern or northeastern Minnesota. For individuals in this part of the state who are interested in learning about our natural environment and natural heritage, options are extremely limited. Currently, there are no other nature center facilities in southwest Minnesota within a 125 mile radius that are open year-round for people to visit and learn about the natural world through exhibits and educational opportunities. Not surprisingly, rural southwest Minnesota is greatly underserved in providing nature education. There is a common, pervasive misconception that by virtue of living in a rural area, residents know about the natural landscapes and how nature “works’. The reality is quite to the contrary. The young people in our region are just as “plugged in” to electronic gadgets as the metropolitan urban and suburban youth. We are now seeing a generation of youth who have no tangible connection to the land and to the agriculture that is the mainstay of our cultural, economic, and spiritual heritage. We often find that the parents of today’s youth are also unaware and lack basic knowledge of local ecosystems and their importance to their own and their family’s well-being. Now, more than ever, this region needs a place for community members of all ages to develop an understanding and appreciation for our natural world.

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Prairie Ecology Center

The Prairie Ecology Center Story Home of the Prairie Ecology Bus The Prairie Ecology Center (PEC) provides environmental education outreach throughout rural, southwestern Minnesota and northern Iowa. It is home to the Prairie Ecology Bus, a stateof-the-art mobile scientific laboratory and classroom designed to educate school children and adults about the environmental and natural sciences. Seating up to 32, the Ecology Bus takes students to outdoor learning sites in their own communities, providing all the tools they need to conduct scientific investigations of local ecosystems. The Ecology Bus runs on alternative soy diesel fuel and is handicapped-accessible to accommodate special needs learners. The Prairie Ecology Center has achieved significant success since its inception. Today, it stands poised for significant growth in the near future. To support this growth the Center has embarked on a comprehensive planning effort aimed at increasing its organizational capacity. The Prairie Ecology Center’s goals are to expand current outreach programming and to expand on-site programs, while becoming a more visible and valued asset to the region.

The Prairie Ecology Center program is the only one of its kind in North America. Prairie Ecology programs have logged over 175,000 miles to more than 20 counties in the region since 1994.

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Prairie Ecology Center

Building for the Future A Need for Improved Facility Support Home base for the Ecology Bus Center is Sparks Park, a 40-acre historic pioneer site in the southwestern Minnesota town of Lakefield. A small donated 1940’s farmhouse serves as the administrative headquarters for PEC, which includes office space for three full-time staff, classroom space for small groups, natural science displays, and storage. The Prairie Ecology Center has been asked numerous times to provide regular, on-site nature-focused classes on the sciences and the arts for area families, teacher training workshops, adult seminar series on nature/environment topics, and expanded public programs for the community and region. Currently, a lack of adequate program and staff space at the Sparks Park farmhouse is a key issue limiting both current outreach and expanded regional and local site-based programming. Without adequate facilities, and subsequent volunteer support and staffing, the Prairie Ecology Center has largely been unable to provide the requested services.

Creating a New ‘Home Base’

A Donated Farmhouse

The Prairie Ecology Center currently operates out of a 950 square foot donated

farmhouse. Along with a lack of functional space, the structure faces significant deterioration issues.

Administrative Office

The Prairie Ecology Center requires expanded staff and intern office space to sup-

port existing outreach programs and to provide expanded on-site programming.

The centerpiece of the master plan includes creation of a new, permanent environmental education center within historic Sparks Park. This modest new facility will provide much-needed administrative, classroom, and storage capacity to support existing Ecology Bus outreach programs. Further, the building will create opportunities for innovative local programming, offer interpretive exhibits and natural science collections, serve as a trailhead for newly developed interpretive trails within the park, and provide an attractive new venue for regional and local community events. By constructing a center where visitors can participate in interactive exhibits, participate in onsite programs and events, become involved in regular volunteer activities, and become attuned to the trails and amenities provided within the park for independent discovery and use, and by association, become more aware of the Ecology Bus and its programming throughout the region, the Prairie Ecology Center will be positioned for growth and sustainability as a regional environmental education center. Becoming a Model of Environmental Stewardship Above all, the Prairie Ecology Center seeks to expand its role as a model of environmental stewardship. The Center will continue to provide environmental education and outreach throughout the region. The Center will demonstrate long-term restoration strategies for the prairie, wetland, and woodland areas within Sparks Parks. The newly built Prairie Ecology Center headquarters will incorporate sustainable design strate-

Classroom/Conference Area

A converted living room provides the only available classroom and

conference space within the existing Prairie Ecology Center facility.

Sparks Park Entrance along Highway 86,

Sparks Park is a 40-acre historic pioneer site located at the northern edge of Lakefield

gies that offer a model for energy efficient and resource-wise construction appropriate for our Midwestern climate.

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Prairie Ecology Center

The Master Planning Process

Process Overview The Prairie Ecology Center has undertaken a master planning effort aimed at improving the organization’s capacity to provide educational programs within the region. Funded through a two-year Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant, the comprehensive master plan developed by the Prairie Ecology Center sets out a clear vision for the future. The goals established by the plan are focused on helping the center incrementally build organizational capacity, increase volunteer support, expand community outreach through increased usage of Sparks Park, and to provide much needed infrastructure improvements.

Planning Objectives

• Ten-year guide for policy, operations, maintenance, and capital improvements • Tool to aid in fundraising and public support • Guide for marketing, program development, staffing, and volunteer involvement

Master Planning Process Diagram

Unlike typical master planning, where individual components are

developed in isolation, the Prairie Ecology Center conducted an integrated process that allowed strategic, business, interpre-

• Reference/resource for current and future board members and staff • Create an integrated comprehensive plan

tive, and site & facility planning efforts to inform and support each other.

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Prairie Ecology Center

The Master Planning Process

Vision of Success By the year 2017 . . . • The Prairie Ecology Center has an environmentally sensitive interpretive facility, designed to support current and future educational, staffing, and visitor needs.

Strategic and Business Planning Strategic Planning A multi-day strategic Visioning Workshop was organized by Corky McReynolds, a nation-

• The Prairie Ecology Center has expanded to reach more schools, organizations, and people with innovative bus and on-site programs.

ally-recognized expert on planning for environmental centers, with participation by members of the Prairie Ecology Center’s Board of

• The Prairie Ecology Center is a model of sustainable environmental stewardship scaled to local community needs with grassroots involvement.

Directors and regional civic leaders. The workshop examined the Center’s core mission, principles,

• The Prairie Ecology Center has developed a committed area-wide following and support structure.

and values. A wide ranging list of ideas and possibilities were debated and winnowed into clearly defined Vision Statements that will be used to guide to organization over the next 7-10

• The Prairie Ecology Center has stable and sustainable funding sources.


• The Prairie Ecology Center has implemented a wellfocused staffing plan supported by a strong volunteer contingent.

tion. It creates a desired, yet practical, statement of the

A Vision Statement is the outcome of a time-framed process to establish overarching goals for an organizaorganization’s future. This vision of success is founded upon the organization’s mission and is reached through deliberation and consensus. Vision statements typically are broad and serve to provide a basis for developing specific strategies to achieve the vision.

Business Planning Recognizing the unique funding challenges within the mostly rural, farming region of southwestern Minnesota, the master plan process devoted on establishing a realistic business plan for the future. An operational pro-forma budget was established that identifies potential sources of revenue. The primary goal is to establish a plan for long-term economic sustainability.

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Prairie Ecology Center

The Master Planning Process

The completed interpretive plan developed for the Prairie Ecology Center identified the following key strategies:

Interpretive Planning Interpretive Planning Process An interpretive plan helps shape the educational messages an organization wishes to communicate. A well-crafted interpretive planning process considers the place-spe-

• Clarify interpretive messages throughout Sparks Park and in all existing and new programs

cific historical, cultural, and natural resources to be interpreted as well as the demo-

• Improve visitor orientation and wayfinding in Sparks Park.

Led by The 106 Group, a St. Paul-based firm specializing in interpretive planning, an

• Restore the landscape of Sparks Park through community stewardship and service learning

graphics of the people who may use the site in order to develop relevant messages and media in support of an organization’s mission.

on-site interpretive planning workshop was conducted with Prairie Ecology Center staff, Board members, and community civic leaders. A conceptual interpretive framework was developed to provide input on audience analysis, key messages, and site development and their relationship to the key interpretive messages.

• Develop exterior interpretive programming spaces and exhibits. • Develop flexible interior programming spaces and exhibits.

Demographic Analysis As part of the interpretive planning process the 106 Group completed a demographic analysis of current Prairie Ecology Center programs and audiences. Additional analysis of regional population demographics revealed opportunities for expanded outreach and program participation. The Prairie Ecology Center conducts environmental education programs in an approximately 30-county region in rural southwestern and central Minnesota, and in northwestern Iowa. A significant percentage of these efforts are now concentrated among Clarifying and expanding interpretive messages displayed throughout Sparks Park is one key interpretive plan goal.

K-6 grade public, private, parochial, and home school programs using the mobile Ecology Bus classroom/laboratory. Other PEC programs are conducted at partner sites such as Kilen Woods State Park or at schools, community centers, and county fairs. A limited number of educational programs for schools, community groups, and the general public are currently accommodated on-site at Sparks Park.

The Ku b a l a Wa s h atko Ar c h it e ct s , I n c .

Prairie Ecology Center

The Master Planning Process

Interpretive Planning Prairie Ecology Center Interpretive Themes The interpretive plan developed one primary theme and four subthemes that are linked to specific areas of the Prairie Ecology Center and Sparks Park. These themes are designed to help the Center expand its role as a model for balancing the needs of both human and natural communities to create a sustainable future. We All Live Downstream: The Prairie Ecology Center’s stream flows from here to Heron Lake to the Des Moines River to the Mississippi River. Where does water from your backyard go and how do you know if it is healthy water? A Prairie Home: Prairie once covered 18 million acres of Minnesota and was part of the largest ecosystem in North America; today prairies are an endangered ecosystem. The Fragile Fringe: Wetlands provide an important home to many plants and animals, and they prevent flooding and filter pollution.

We All Live Downstream

The riverine zone within Sparks Park offers the opportunity to explain water-

sheds and water quality, and to interpret the links between wetlands, streams, ponds, and lakes.

A Prairie Home

The Wild Woods: From the smallest plants to the biggest animals, forests are a web As an ongoing restoration process this area of the site can serve as a living laboratory for visitors

of connections.

and communities interested in restoring former agricultural lands into prairie ecosystems.

“Discovering nature is healthy and fun: The Prairie Ecology Center is a place to discover nature.�

The Fragile Fringe

Significantly degraded wetlands are common in agricultural areas; thus the need for

examples of wetland restoration is high.

The Wild Woods The woodland area offers an opportunity to interpret the relationships within the forest community and how invasive species change an ecosystem.

The Ku b a l a Wa s h atko Ar c h it e ct s , I n c .

Prairie Ecology Center

The Master Planning Process

Site and Facility Planning Site/Facility Planning As part of the master plan, the Prairie Ecology Center established a goal of creating a modest, yet functional and highly sustainable new facility to support current outreach programs, and to provide improved on-site access and programming for the community and region. The site and facility plan was developed by The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc. (TKWA), of Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Lakefield High School graduate, Wayne Reckard, was part of the TKWA project team for the Prairie Ecology Center. Observing the Site in All Seasons Creating a truly sustainable facility requires a deep understanding of the natural forces

New Vehicle Entrance

A new vehicle entrance and circulation path will feature low-cost, water permeable

gravel surfacing. Grass overflow parking areas will be created among existing tree areas.

Highway View of Prairie Restoration

- sun, wind, water - acting on a site. The TKWA design team made multiple visits to Ongoing native prairie restoration will occur along the

north-south Highway 86 corridor, providing a highly visible example of the Center’s sustainability efforts.

Sparks Park to observe the site throughout the seasons. The knowledge gained from these efforts helped the design team complete a thorough diagnosis of strengths and weaknesses of the site. The resulting site design reflects a sensitivity to ecological considerations and to major new pedestrian and vehicle circulation patterns that will occur. An emphasis was also placed on the creation of ‘outdoor rooms’ that support programs through the strategic arrangement of buildings and site features.

Key Sustainable Goals Our approach to sustainability reflects both environmental and economic goals. As long-term owners the Prairie Ecology Center design places a priority on simple, common sense strategies - such as orienting the building to the sun and wind - instead of more intense and expensive building techniques and strategies. In addition to a healthy environment for flora, fauna, visitors and staff, there are educational and long-term cost saving opportunities. Key sustainable features of the proposed building design include the following: •

Strawbale construction, which uses a locally available, highly insulative, low-cost and long-lasting building material.

Roof mounted photovoltaic array to generate electricity from the sun.

Abundant natural daylight and ventilation to reduce energy costs and improve occupant comfort.

Children’s Garden

The existing Children’s Garden provides ongoing educational opportunities. The new site and

facility will feature expanded garden areas and a greenhouse connected to the kitchen within the Center.

Trail System Development

An improved and expanded outdoor trail system will be developed, with

the new building serving as a trailhead and visitor welcome center.

A geothermal system, which uses the earth to help heat and cool the building.

Improved water conservation and stormwater management.

The Ku b a l a Wa s h atko Ar c h it e ct s , I n c .

Prairie Ecology Bus Center

Pattern Writing

A key element of our design approach is a process we call Pattern Writing. The goal of writing patterns is to gain a deeper understanding of how a building and its environment can be configured to support both human activity and natural processes in a harmonious way. Writing patterns helps the design team identify the deeper social, spiritual, and emotional values inherent in a place. This process offers solutions for making a place more alive, more functional, and more inviting to both staff and visitors. During early planning stages of the Prairie Ecology Center, The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc. worked closely with staff to develop a uniquely crafted Pattern Language to guide future design and construction of site and facility improvements. These efforts were focused on understanding the Prairie Ecology Bus Center’ss history and culture, learning how it operates, and identifying ways the building and site can better support the mission of the organization.

1. It Takes a Lot of Pancakes

4. Gathering on the Prairie



Raising funds to support good ideas is a significant and ongoing chal-

The local community lacks a special place to host meetings, receptions

lenge in the region. Pancake breakfast fundraisers alone will not gener-

or gatherings in a uniquely natural setting.

ate the kind of funds necessary to construct a large new Center. Thus, economic sustainability is a high priority for the Center in all its future

Even in its embryonic form, the new Center must provide a particularly

endeavors. Should major funding fail to materialize, a Master Plan design

memorable place for community groups to meet. This meeting facility

based on a single source would quickly become obsolete.

could take many forms, from a full blown classroom/office/meeting room configuration all the way to a more rudimentary three-season structure


with basic restroom facilities. However as the dollars make themselves

Design a modest, phased approach to the implementation of the Master

available, the capacity to host community gatherings should be made

Plan. Incrementally unfold the physical facility together with the interpre-


tive program for the site and the growth of available funds. When larger sums are received, the speed of implementation can be increased.

5. A Distinct Place on 86

2. On Firm Ground



difficulty visually separating the Center’s entrance from the entrances of

The PEBC’s uncertain future relationship with County and City owned

adjacent homes along the Highway.

The current highway entrance to the Center is not easy to see. One has

land makes planning for a new building and other site improvements and restoration efforts quite difficult.



This can be achieved using a variety of contrast creating tactics. For

The Center’s entrance must be distinctly natural in it’s quality as a place.

Before the effort to construct a new Center takes place, the issue of the

southbound traffic, open up a vision triangle by brushing up the trees

usability of County and City land must be resolved.

near the road making the entrance more visually accessible. Establish a ‘green screen’ between the Center’s drive and the neighboring residence.

3. Regional Model of Ecological Restoration

This hedge or vine covered fence can act as a strong foil or backdrop to


(using a small solar collector) for a few hours each evening will reinforce

Although Sparks Park currently offers modest opportunities for backyard

the presence of the Center in the minds of community members and

environmental education, the property has few distinctive natural fea-

passing motorists.

a distinctive icon and/or sign signifying the entrance. Lighting the sign

tures or high quality ecosystems. The land has been significantly degraded through intense use and the demands of agricultural practices.

6. Center to Bus Symbiosis



Make an incremental restoration of the land one of the central purposes

It would be interesting for the Center to have some kind of constructive

of the property for the next 10-15 years. The Center, in it’s first manifes-

relationship with the Bus. However, the job of the Bus is to be out and

tation, can become the educational base for an ecosystem recovery in

about as much as possible. Does it then make sense to locate and design

which children and adults from the community can participate. Over

the Center to have a Bus relationship if the Bus is not present most of the

time, Sparks Park can become a regional model of sustainable environ-


mental stewardship and ecological restoration.

solution: Provide a semi-sheltered Bus Dock near the Center that could be used as a Bus restocking platform as well as a passenger boarding location. Minimize the amount of paving required to accommodate arrival and departure. Parking the Bus in it’s garage could take place at a distance.

7. Window to the Sun issue: A building in the woods sees little of the sun and is thereby deprived of its bounty. “If the sun were not in love, it would have no brilliance.” RumiIf outdoor rooms, terraces and decks don’t have good exposure to the sun, their season of use will be shortened.

solution: In locating structures and outdoor spaces that utilize available solar energy, it is important to insure a relatively shadow free southern exposure. Indiscriminate clearing of a site is not a viable option. Giving outdoors spaces good access to the sun will extend their season of use into the fall and spring.

8. Sustainability as Normal issue: Rural southwest Minnesota currently offers few examples of approaches to sustainable living. Several of the most significant issues include energy and water use, and in providing greater awareness of the impact of carbon emissions on climate change.

solution: Eventually, one hundred percent of the building’s energy needs are to be supplied by on-site renewable energy on a net annual basis. When making decisions regarding the cost of building systems, always balance first costs with life cycle costs. Consider the use of solar, wind, geothermal and biogas energy sources. One hundred percent of occupants’ water use will eventually come from captured precipitation or reused water that is appropriately purified without the use of chemicals. All rain that falls on the property must stay on the property, where most of it is to be returned to the aquifer in a naturalized way. Local subsurface movement of water must be understood

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Prairie Ecology Bus Center

10. Enter a Welcoming Natural Realm

between the parking area and the front door. Induce the visitor to change

hikers in a circle and prepare them for the experience ahead. At the same time there should be room for unaccompanied hikers to easily move past

that comes off the roof should be slowed down, collected and/or reintro-


direction, experience changes in texture, lighting, color, etc. bringing attention to interpretive-rich events along the way.

the circle and on to the trail.

before proposing any structure that might disrupt that flow. Minimize use of hard paving surfaces and where used, make it permeable. Rainwater duced to the local water table. In the process, water can become a visual

After making the turn onto the Center’s entrance drive, one is confronted

and acoustic part of daily life and consciousness at the Center.Provide

with a cluttered and visually confusing environment at odds with the

for the eventual carbon neutral operation of the Center throughout its

intended natural setting of the Center.

life as a structure.

solution: A significant outcome of this pattern would be the reduction in fossil fuels

Make every effort to naturalize the experience extending from highway

used to prepare, construct, operate and occupy the new Center, thereby

entrance to a place to park the car. This may include moving the entrance

greatly reducing its carbon footprint. The budget may force us to pick

drive to allow for a greater massing of landscape between the drive and

simple and low-tech solutions. Do not lose sight of the long term goals

the neighbor’s yard.

when considering first costs.

9. The Push/Pull of Existing Buildings issue: Savings buildings for ongoing use represents an effort in being thrifty and financially prudent.From a sustainability point of view, the demolition of existing buildings represents the loss of significant amounts of embodied energy, not only in the production of materials, but in the effort to originally construct them. Some of these structures are also our connection to a previous time, a cultural bridge to the European immigrant use of the land.On the other hand, unless the existing buildings are properly repaired/restored and actively occupied as part of the Center’s operations, they will continue to fall into disrepair, incur ongoing maintenance costs, present potential liability concerns, and give the site an unappealing and dilapidated

For the forseeable future, the existing bus barn and the Sparks House should be maintained and used. The timber frame barn should be dismantled and the materials recycled or reused for the new facility where possible. Leaving a remnant of the original barn, such as the stone foundation, can provide a historical marker of past usefulness and support

issue: Sparks Park has always been associated, to some degree, with the look and feel of the neighborhood on its southern boundary. On the other hand, increased use of the Center will impose a new level of noise and

A trailhead can be augmented with a place to sit and an informational marker that prepares the hiker for what is ahead. All signage and interpretive elements should be consistent in character. The trail heads must be visible from the public indoor parts of the Center, allowing immediate access on foot or wheelchair. Where possible, make a grouping or family of trailheads, giving the visitor a clear choice of hike direction and type.

activity on the residential neighbors.

A trail system map should be located in this same space.


16. Building as a Door to Nature

11. Parking Pockets

To create a mutually beneficial relationship between the Center and its neighbors, establish a generous boundary zone that increases visual and



acoustical separation. Maintain the neighbor’s access to his garage but

It would be contrary to the mission of the PEBC if the final result of the

There is nothing more unattractive and destructive to site character then

make it less obvious to visitors to the Center.

everyday visitors experience were a building or a bus.

a large sea of parking.


14. Positive Outdoor Rooms

solution: The new Center should be thought of as a gateway to nature and not the

Minimize, separate, and distribute parking pockets along the site in a


destination itself. The end result should inspire visitors to go outside and

way that masks the required quantity of the parking. Vegetation may

“Outdoor spaces which are merely left over between buildings will, in

explore. The majority of social spaces should have strong connections

be used to screen and shade parking where needed. Control drainage

general, not be used.” Christopher Alexander

to the outdoors via doors, views, daylight, breezes, and sounds. Blur the

of the parking to channel it away from areas that can become polluted by its contaminants. Rather channel it to a resource that can purify the water naturally and return it to the site in a useable form. Avoid giving the sacred areas of the site, its gardens, its buildings, its outdoor rooms, a prime view of the parking lot.

line between inside and outside through the use of similar materials and

solution: Always consider the placement and general shaping of buildings and

12. Parking to Building Transition

colors. Where possible provide sheltered edges (porches, roof overhangs, etc.) as a transition between the Center and Positive Outdoor Rooms.

outdoor spaces simultaneously. Always provide outdoor spaces the edges necessary to give them room-like characteristics. Give them high quality solar exposure to reinforce their regular use.



13. Neighborly Impositions

17. Build a Simple Stable Shell issue:

15. Trail Head

Many of today’s buildings are designed to be well-insulated, lightweight,

If visitors could park right next to the front door of the Center, they prob-


cooling, air control, and communications. Buildings of this type have


thin-skinned shells augmented with the latest technology in heating,

ably would. If time and space are not available to the arriving visitor to

If a nature trail doesn’t have a recognizable starting point, it’s difficult for

tended to be high users of energy (especially for cooling), technology

deal with a driving state of mind, they will drag their ‘road mask’ right

a group and leader to gracefully and effectively begin an organized trail

dependent (requires highly trained person to operate, equipment quickly

into the Center.

hike. It is also difficult for unaccompanied hikers to see where trails are.

becomes obsolete), and because their shells are lightweight, their life expectancies are relatively short.

the interpretive goals of the organization. The remaining buildings onsite, including the Rodeo Barn and metal storage shed, must be care-



fully evaluated for their future utility. Only as a last resort and instead of

Once a visitor parks their automobile, it is very helpful to move through a

The embarkment points for trails should be easily recognized, but not


demolition, dismantle existing buildings, recycling or reusing as many of

series of transitions in order to prepare to see the Center and it’s environs

marked in such a way as to give them an amusement park feeling. The

The focus should be on building a stable, well-insulated, massive, and

their building components and materials as possible.

with a receptive, open mind. Prepare a series of modest outdoor rooms

trail head should allow enough room for a leader to gather a group of

self-shading shell. These low-tech, high-yield design strategies will

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Prairie Ecology Bus Center

decrease the building’s reliance on both energy and technology, allow-


ing the Center to serve it’s purpose over a longer than typical span of

Create a multi-purpose space within the new Center that accommodates a

time. The mass of the building plays a strong role in creating a useful

variety of immediate needs while offering the flexibility to support nature

‘energy flywheel’ helping the Center stay cool in the summer and warm

pre-school activities should the opportunity present itself in the future.

in the winter.

Organize outdoor spaces to support an expanded Children’s Garden and other outdoor play areas.

During summer, natural ventilation can be used to cool the building’s mass at night, allowing it to absorb heat during the day, minimizing the need for air conditioning. During winter, desired heat gain is stored in the building’s mass, storing the energy for use at night, and keeping the Center from overheating during good solar harvesting days in spring and fall. With permanent selective shading of the building, the proper kinds of solar energy can be allowed in for either daylighting or passive heating purposes, or both. With much of the energy work being done by the shell, high technology is minimized and simpler systems can be used. Make sure the area of glazing does not exceed 20-25% of total floor area.

20. Only One There issue: During the week, there will be many times where only one or two staff people are actually in the building. If staff offices are not positioned well the following problems may arise:1. Visitors can become confused if the offices aren’t easily identifiable or easily assisted.2. The administrator can’t keep an eye on all of the building.3. Security of the front door and the offices can be hard to manage.4. It is environmentally irresponsible and economically inefficient to condition all spaces of the building for one person.

18. A Room with Many Settings



Give them visual access to as much of the rest of the building as possible.

The types of meetings that could take place at the PEBC are many and

Simplify the security of all offices down to the locking of one door. Zone the offices separately so to minimize the conditioning of unused por-

gathering anticipated. However, asking a room to accommodate many

tions of the building. Also, create the office area such that future office

different uses is a tall order, often resulting in a poorly designed space

expansion doesn’t unduly disrupt existing offices or the oversight of the

that does not work well for anything.

front door.


21. Better Storage, Better Work

allows the room to be subdivided into smaller, more intimate spaces.


Access to daylight from multiple sides and direct access to the outdoors

Current organization of storage and work spaces at the center make

will make the room more functional and inviting. Storage within the room

it inefficient for staff to prepare and transport educational materials.

must be tailored to anticipated uses. Multiple areas to accommodate

Inadequate storage also makes it difficult for staff to effectively do their

video projection and marker surfaces will increase functionality.


19. Nature’s School issue: Opening a Nature Preschool is a great idea for many reasons, but the time

issue: Offices without kitchens seem strangely foreign. Offices with kitchens separate from the workplace feel equally disconnected from everyday life. For the PEBC, the kitchen area must not only serve as a place of food preparation and informal social gathering, it is a place where frequent “messes” are created as a part of environmental education programming.

solution: Allow the kitchen to be an active part of work life, as it would be in a household. Place the kitchen in an alcove off the larger work area; provide enough space for a small table, chairs, full-size refrigerator, 4-burner range, oven, and microwave. Make sure the coffee pot is in this space. Allow sufficient counter space and large enough sinks to support easy project preparation and cleanup. The Kitchen Alcove can also double as a small meeting space.

Put the full-time staff office(s) in a prominent position near the front door.

varied. It is unrealistic to build a meeting room for each type and size of

The larger multi-purpose space must provide an operable partition that

22. Kitchen In The Middle

solution: Organize an expanded number of storage spaces in such a way that they provide easy access to both interior work preparation areas and to bus or car loading.

for its creation may not be now.

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Prairie Ecology Center

Site Plan

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Prairie Ecology Center

Floor Plan

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Prairie Ecology Center

Building Section

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Prairie Ecology Center

Aerial View

The Ku b a l a Wa s h atko Ar c h it e ct s , I n c .


Prairie Ecology Center

Bus Dock

The Ku b a l a Wa s h atko Ar c h it e ct s , I n c .


Prairie Ecology Center

View From East

The Ku b a l a Wa s h atko Ar c h it e ct s , I n c .


Prairie Ecology Center

Garden / Gathering Area

The Ku b a l a Wa s h atko Ar c h it e ct s , I n c .


Prairie Ecology Center

Porch Area

The Ku b a l a Wa s h atko Ar c h it e ct s , I n c .


Prairie Ecology Center

Exhibit Space

The Ku b a l a Wa s h atko Ar c h it e ct s , I n c .


Prairie Ecology Center

Administrative Area

The Ku b a l a Wa s h atko Ar c h it e ct s , I n c .


Prairie Ecology Center

Director’s Office

The Ku b a l a Wa s h atko Ar c h it e ct s , I n c .


Prairie Ecology Center

Contact Us How Can You Help? There are many ways you can support this vision of the future for the Prairie Ecology Center. Become a volunteer. Invite PEC to your school or organization. You can also make a financial or in-kind donation to the Center. For more information, feel free to contact us. Prairie Ecology Bus Center 935 North Highway 86, P.O. Box 429, Lakefield, MN 56150 phone: 507.662.5064 | website: The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc. W61 N617 Mequon Avenue, Cedarburg, WI 53012 phone: 262.377.6039 | website: Corky McReynolds Treehaven Environmental Learning Center W 2540 Pickerel Creek Road, Tomahawk, WI 54487 phone: 715.453.4106 | website: The 106 Group 370 Selby Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota 55102 phone: 651.290.0977 | website:

The Ku b a l a Wa s h atko Ar c h it e ct s , I n c .


Prairie Ecology Center Master Plan  
Prairie Ecology Center Master Plan  

Master planning document