A new administrative office and visitor facility planned for Audubon National Wildlife Refuge near Coleharbor, North Dakota will be energy efficient and built in a manner so it is also safe for migratory birds.

“This facility will be a prime example of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and will strive for the gold certification level, which incorporates many environmentally sustainable construction methods including the use of solar energy, vertical axis wind generation, geothermal heating and cooling system, and the use of many recycled materials,” according to federal officials.

The building design has also been modified to address the possibility for any bird strikes to occur.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in conjunction with our design/build team have discussed the issue of bird collisions and have created a facility as bird-safe/friendly as we feel possible, while maintaining our gold LEED certification,” said Jackie Jacobson, Outdoor Recreation Planner at the refuge.

“Our team has already made changes to this facility in order to avoid potential bird collisions. Some of these changes include lowering the lobby (initial design had more of a glass tower lobby), removing cupolas that contained glass windows, breaking up the roof line, utilizing vertical axis wind turbine rather than a horizontal blade, and installing horizontal blinds on windows so glass face is more noticeable.”

“The building will be constructed in an open grassland area away from woodland areas (our current facility is amongst several shelterbelt areas where we do have many species of birds utilizing this habitat – this building will be demolished, reducing impacts we currently have here).”

“The newly constructed visitor center will allow staff to build a stronger and more expansive environmental education and visitation program for the public,” according to officials. “An exhibit hall will house dioramas, murals, and hands-on features that focus on the importance of wetlands and grasslands for migratory birds and other wildlife. An educational classroom will provide a means for gathering youth and adults to increase their knowledge about the functions and values of these important habitats, prior to visiting the Outdoor Wildlife Learning Site, which is connected to the building via a trail system.”

“The administrative office will house fifteen permanent employees and up to 25 seasonal employees. The additional space will allow for expansion of youth employment through the Youth Conservation Corp program and Student Temporary Education Program which provide opportunities for young adults to gain experience in environmental stewardship and explore careers with the Service.”

“A primary objective of the visitor center at Audubon will be focusing on these important wetlands and grasslands and the tremendous benefits they offer to wildlife,” said Lloyd Jones, refuge manager at Audubon NWR, which has about 29,000 visitors each year.

The new facility – to be built using $6.1 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – will be “designed and built by Keplin/Gracon JV from Rolette, North Dakota. Design will begin in June 2009 and construction will conclude in November 2010.”

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