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Pocono Environmental Education Center - Visitor Activity Center - Dingmans Ferry, PA

Community, Historic Site or District
South side of the building – ©Nic Lehoux

Environmental Education/Visitor Activity Center
Pocono Environmental Education Center
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania

The Environmental Education/Visitor Activity Center, designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, reflects the commitment of its owners and operators, the Pocono Environmental Education Center and the National Park Service, to the ideals of environmental stewardship. Now celebrating a decade of use by thousands of students and visitors, the building promotes the Pocono Environmental Education Center’s commitment to use its architecture as a teaching tool, so that all who visit will learn the importance of sustainability and broaden their understanding of our interdependency with the natural environment.

The Visitor Activity Center is designed to function as a year-round gathering space for dining, meetings, lectures and other environmental learning activities. The design reveals itself in layers, allowing visitors pass through the forest, cross a wetland, enter the building through an opening in the dark north wall and cross through a bar of service spaces into the bright, sun-lit main room. Exposed timber and steel trusses welcome and orient visitors into the building while framing the entryway into the dining/gathering space beyond. The trusses rest on a concrete frame that is in-filled with blocks whose etchings of animal tracks, leaf outlines and other images from nature were hand drawn by children visiting PEEC; just one way in which the mission of environmental education is integrated into the building.

In the main gathering space, strategic design decisions allow the building and its users to take advantage of all the natural world has to offer; the warmth of the sun, prevailing breezes, natural light and views of the forest. This great room features a large, south-facing glass wall to maximize absorption of the sun’s warmth during cooler seasons, and tinted concrete floor slabs that collect solar energy throughout the day and radiate it back into the room during the evening. The roof overhang above the south wall has been fine-tuned to shade this wall from the summer sun and prevent heat gain during the warmest of summer days. Large porches assist in screening the east and west-facing glass during morning and afternoon hours, while offering opportunities for outdoor dining and instruction in pleasant weather.

Carefully positioned operable windows minimize the building’s dependence on energy intensive systems, like conventional air conditioning, by naturally ventilating the main space. Students and visitors are prompted to learn about the principles of natural ventilation by controlling the flow of air in the space by manually operating all windows. Sunlight streams through the main space, a result of carefully planned and intentional design decisions that conserve energy otherwise spent on artificial lighting .

Reused, recycled or recyclable materials were a prime component in the overall design and are present throughout the building. This principle comes to light in the undulating curved north façade that is clad with shingles manufactured from old, discarded tires. These tires were reclaimed from the river, park grounds and other local sources and converted to exterior shingles by cutting them into strips and applying them in an interlocking fashion to provide a waterproof skin that is long lasting and maintenance free.

The Environmental Education/Visitor Activity Center is a prime example of true sustainable design; from the unique use of materials to its orientation on the land; its built-in, evergreen teaching tools for students and educators; and its durability over a decade of classes, events, and programs. These factors attest to the power of quality design, programming and educational pursuits that will serve present and future generations of our society and environment.

Environmental Education/Visitor Activity Center

Pocono Environmental Education Center / National Park Service

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania

Data Sheet

Architect: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Architecture Planning Interior Design

Wilkes-Barre, PA

Peter Q. Bohlin, FAIA, Principal for Design

Allen H. Kachel, AIA LEED AP, Project Manager

Owner: Pocono Environmental Education Center (Operator) / National Park Service (Owner)

(Note: PEEC operates its facilities through a cooperative agreement with the NPS. This arrangement is a successful example of the NPS’s initiative to promote joint private/public partnerships within the National Parks)

Location: Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania

Size: 7,750 gsf

Cost: $2.0 Million

Completion: 2005

Awards: 2005 Honor Award

AIA Northeastern Pennsylvania

2006 Honor Award

AIA Pennsylvania

2006 Citation Award

Wood Design Awards

2008 Top Ten Green Projects Award

AIA Committee On The Environment

2009 Award of Excellence

AIA Committee on Architecture for Education

2009 Silver Award

Commonwealth Design Awards

2009 Green GOOD DESIGN Award

The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies & the Chicago Athenaeum

Publications: The Architectural Review – November 2006

Public Space For Amusement and Achievement

C3 Publishing Co. – 2008

Sustainable Facilities - Keith Moskow

McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing – 2008

BOHLIN CYWINSKI JACKSON The Nature of Circumstance

Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. - 2010

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