Gaines Group Architects

12. Philip Merrill Environmental Center #105architecturalinspiration

Phillips Merrill

Timing is everything! The path that I took to becoming an architect was not normal. I spent 3 years at a community college to earn a 2 year degree. In that time I focused on learning how people make decisions / how people think. Then I headed to UVA for three years to earn a 4 year degree. During that time I had the good fortune to arrive the same year as William McDonough who changed the focus of the school to sustainable design.  I then worked for a few years before going to graduate school ending up at University of Tennessee in 2001 just in time for the LEED rating system to find popularity. This gave me the ability to research and learn the LEED system before having a client paying for my time. The Philip Merril Environmental Center came just in time to show me how to take an innovative approach to sustainable design.

chesapeake bay foundation drawing

In 2001, the Philip Merril Environmental Center opened as the first U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Platinum building. The center was innovative in its use of materials and design strategies that were new at the time to the construction market. All materials are made of recycled products or created through processes that don’t damage the environment. It set the bar for energy-efficiency, high performance, and water conservation.

chesapeake bay foundation

The building integrated geothermal wells, natural ventilation, natural light, rainwater harvesting, composting toilets, recycled and renewable materials, no VOC materials, bioretention, and native plantings. Overall, the center uses 40% less energy than a typical office building. The heating and cooling systems do not run about 33% of the year by using passive heating and cooling. The water use may be the most impressive achievement with a 90% reduction from a conventional building.

#105architecturalinspirations is a collection of architectural details, buildings, and spaces that inspire me. I am taking on the challenge of finding two projects to spotlight each week in 2015. Hopefully I will be able to keep up and this process of discovery will push me to create better design solutions for my clients as I research and learn more about those projects I enjoy most. I challenge you to add your comments below about this project and to post your own inspirations for all to enjoy. 

Full List of previous #105architecturalinspiration posts

1. Jefferson’s Academical Village

2. Charleston, South Carolina

3. Solar Decathlon

4. National Museum of the American Indian

5. Lighthouses

6. Hatch Show Prints

7. The Aqua Tower in Chicago

8. Chicago Theatre Marquee

9. Samuel Mockbee

10. Richard Meier

11. Notre Dame du Haut