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Auburn University’s Kreher Preserve and Nature Center begins construction of new innovative environmental education building

Construction recently commenced on a new environmental education building at Auburn University’s Kreher Preserve and Nature Center (KPNC). Situated near the North College Street entrance to the nature preserve, the structure is designed to be a dynamic focal point for the community, offering an engaging space for students and visitors to experience the wonder of nature.

At the forefront of environmental education in the region, the KPNC annually welcomes tens of thousands of students of all ages to participate in a variety of programs. Featuring state-of-the-art technology resources and diverse educational and interpretive displays, the new building will enable the KPNC to expand its diverse array of educational offerings, which include classes, workshops, events, programs and school field trips.

Rendering Architect - Aerial View of Environmental Education Building

Architect rendering of an aerial view of the new Environmental Education Building at Kreher Preserve and Nature Center in Auburn, Alabama.

“We are extremely excited about the addition of the environmental education building to the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center,” said Michael Buckman, manager of the KPNC. “For the first time, Kreher will have an interpretive hub for our visitors to explore and learn about the natural world. It will be a meeting place, a learning space and a gateway to the rest of the Kreher forest.”

With two dynamic classrooms, the new building is anticipated to be a transformative addition to the KPNC. One classroom will be a multi-purpose space and the other will be specifically for the Woodland Wonders Nature Preschool, providing opportunities to expand the Woodland Wonders catalog to potentially include kindergarten, after-school programs and more. The building’s “Discovery Corridor” will exhibit KPNC’s beloved live animal collection, which often complements its education programs.

Designed with an emphasis on connectivity to the natural surroundings with modern teaching methods and practices at the forefront, the new center will feature expansive portals that blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces, said Buckman.

Side view rendering of Environmental Education Building

Architect rendering of the side view of the new Environmental Education Building at Kreher Preserve and Nature Center.

The building will be constructed of cross-laminated timber (CLT), a mass timber product often created using southern yellow pine, as a showcase of its use as a sustainable alternative to traditional building materials. The lightweight and prefabricated attributes of CLT enable precision manufacturing, reduced on-site waste and an accelerated construction process.

CLT, classified as “renewable,” allows for the growth of new forests and trees when additional materials are needed—a stark contrast to concrete and steel, which cannot be replenished. CLT, when manufactured and utilized in construction, stores carbon within the building’s structure, preventing its release back into the atmosphere. This dual characteristic emphasizes the environmentally sustainable nature of CLT in construction. Additionally, CLT panels exhibit strong thermal performance and fire resistance, enhancing both functionality and aesthetic appeal.

“We are thrilled that we’ll have the ability to enhance the KPNC as a community resource,” said Janaki Alavalapati, the Emmett F. Thompson Dean of the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment. “The building’s integration with nature and enhanced features will undoubtedly contribute to our shared mission of fostering environmental stewardship for those of all ages.”

“We look forward to the positive impact the Environmental Educational Building will have on shaping a sustainable and ecologically conscious future for our community,” said Alavalapati.

Giving Opportunities for Environmental Education Building

Giving and naming opportunities for the new Environmental Education Building.

Considering the ongoing construction, parking availability at the north College Street entrance of KPNC will be limited. Embrace Church, a neighbor and partner to the KPNC, has extended the use of their parking lot as overflow. A designated trail, equipped with appropriate signage, has been established along the grass parallel to College Street, facilitating off-street movement between the church lot and the KPNC.

From the main parking area off College Street, foot traffic is directed to the gravel access drive to the interior of the nature preserve, with vehicle traffic restricted to authorized personnel, emergencies and those with accessibility needs to accommodate the heightened pedestrian activity in the area.

The construction project will not impact the KPNC’s north parking lot on Farmville Road.

Explore more details about the environmental education building, including opportunities to contribute to its construction, by visiting the KPNC website.

Written by Allison Killingsworth

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