Elegant Efficiency at Zion Canyon
by B.J. Novitski
Out in the beautiful Utah desert, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) is elegantly demonstrating how bringing the outside in and the inside out can enhance our appreciation of the built and natural environment.
The 7,600-square-foot (706-square meter) Zion Canyon Visitor and Transportation Center, in Springdale, Utah, is a showcase of efficiency and sustainability for the NPS.
The new building combines a wide range of technologies, old and new, passive and active. It incorporates daylighting, Trombe walls for solar heating, downdraft "cool towers" for natural ventilation, energy-efficient lighting, and advanced building controls. A roof-mounted photovoltaic system provides backup electrical power.
Architects at the NPS, headed by James Crockett, and energy experts from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), led by Ron Judkoff and Paul Torcellini, teamed up to make the building a model of high efficiency.
The teams had support from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Building Technology, State and Community Programs.
According to Torcellini, senior engineer at NREL, the Zion Canyon Visitor and Transportation Center building is expected to show an 80 percent energy savings over conventional visitor centers. The new building also reduces the building's impact on the park's fragile environment. It is the hub for a bus system that greatly reduces car traffic within the park.
At the new Zion Canyon Visitor and Transportation Center, "cool towers" are used for evaporative cooling in the desert climate and give the building a distinctive face.
Photo: Larry Kilborn
The visitor center features an array of alternative energy design features.
Image: National Renewable Energy Laboratory
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