New Center Will Welcome Visitors At Sam's Point Preserve
On May 22, 2005, The Nature Conservancy and the Open Space Institute, Inc, celebrated the opening of the Sam's Point Conservation Center at Sam's Point Preserve in Cragsmoor, New York.
The Center, a project of The Nature Conservancy, will serve as a base for scientific research, land stewardship and education, and houses exhibits focusing on the unique geological, ecological and cultural features of the Preserve. The 3,000 square foot building, designed by Matthew Bialecki, AIA, of Bialecki Architects, provides support services for preserve staff and visitors using the 5,000+ acre Sam's Point Preserve.
The preserve is a high rock plateau that is home to a globally rare dwarf pitch pine and is widely regarded as one of the world's most beautiful natural environments. The requirements for the project specified that the facility provide an inherent integration of the preserve ecology, the architectural expression , and the educational mission of The Nature Conservancy.
The principal building and related site plan improvements were designed to be an analogue of the Preserve's natural ecology. The building design and site plan were conceived as an extension of the landscape where the use of natural materials would help focus the visitor on the relationships between the two fundamental natural elements of the Preserve: the inspiring geology of the cliffs, and the rare dwarf pine. The building is designed to be an essential educational element in the visitors' experience. The building dissolves the normal boundaries between the site and the structure in order to heighten the sense of integration. Materials such as concrete flooring, masonry walls and structural timber framing all pass seamlessly from interior to exterior. The design uses a custom-designed system of massive pre-cast concrete masonry blocks dubbed “Gunk-Crete” as the primary wall material Made from a custom mix of colored white concrete and quartzite aggregates, the masonry is similar to “Shawangunk Conglomerate”, the local limestone that defines the preserve.
The primary roof structure is of exposed heavy timber sustainably harvested following the criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The steel timber connections are visibly expressed and highlighted as “roots” recalling the way the Preserve's dwarf pines cling to the natural rocks. A high performance glass curtain wall allows the roof structure to “float” over the building and read as a pavilion covering the masonry forms.
The facility was designed in accordance with the LEED standards developed by the U. S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and is currently awaiting LEEDS certification. The architectural design, site planning, materials and building systems were all designed to demonstrate energy-efficient, sustainable building practices that are affordable and widely available. Materials were specified for their recycled content and local manufacture; the wall insulation is made from recycled cotton fiber, the wallboard is a “green” product made of recycled wood fiber and gypsum, the bath tiles are from surplus building waste, the roofing is recycled steel, and the “Gunk-Crete” masonry was manufactured locally.
The building systems rely on an integrated passive solar design with state of the art heating and cooling systems that provide maximum comfort and energy efficiency. In combination, these special features will result in a 40% decrease in energy consumption over similar buildings constructed to current energy codes. The passive features include proper solar orientation for winter heat gain and day-lighting, an earth-bermed north wall to reduce perimeter heat loss, the use of high mass materials for thermal storage, a “thermo –siphon” clerestory to naturally ventilate the structure, precise building insulation to maximize the efficiency of the building “skin”, and the development and installation of the “Umbrella Roof” system to passively cool the building. Named for its inherent shading qualities, the Umbrella Roof is designed to dissipate summer heat gain and passively cool the structure via a unique layered system of high-performance insulation with a bonded aluminum radiant barrier under recycled metal roof panels. The vented air space between the radiant barrier and the roof panels naturally convects the unwanted heat gain to the exterior and away from the building.
Landscaping features native plants propagated from seeds collected at the Preserve and restores the former parking lot to a natural landscape. The central feature is a “bio-swale” for treatment of the storm water and increasing the amount of shade trees and plantings. The educational installations explain the unique ecology of the preserve and a bold, forty foot mural (currently being installed…) of the ridge ecology dominates the space. It depicts the distinctive habitats of the Preserve featuring the globally rare dwarf pine barrens and ice caves environs located at the Preserve. Within the mural visitors can find more than 90 species of plants, birds, and animals that are native to the Preserve.
Bialecki Architects is a nationally recognized architecture firm specializing in sustainable building designs inspired by the history and natural environment of New York's Hudson River Valley. BA designs appreciate the inherent richness and value of historic and culturally significant structures, accommodating new uses and elements without compromising the inherent beauty of the building. Matthew Bialecki, AIA, has been honored with the following awards from the American Institute of Architects for his unique architectural designs and exquisite craftsmanship:
In 2001 he received the President's Award from the New York State Chapter of the American Institute of Architects for outstanding service to the field of architecture.
His work has been featured in Architectural Digest (1996, 1999 and 2000) and in other national publications such as Period Homes and Progressive Architecture. He is a contributing author and editor of The New Bungalow , published by Gibbs-Smith Publishers in 2001.
For more information contact: Matthew Bialecki, AIA
Bialecki Architects, 845 255-6131
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