Page E1.1 . 23 October 2002                     
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    Gentle on the Beach

    by ArchitectureWeek

    The Sustainable Bathhouse Project at the Assateague Island National Seashore in Virginia officially opened in June 2002. This project, on a protective but ever-changing "barrier island," is one of several planning, design, and construction projects currently underway there by the National Park Service. Their objectives are to develop cost-effective, environmentally responsible roadways, parking lots, bathhouses, and visitor contact facilities on the southern end of the island, which serves one million visitors annually.

    The bathhouse project includes several innovative elements. The lightweight cabana structures are easy to set up and dismantle, so they can be removed from the beach during pre-storm evacuations. Photovoltaic panels are installed in easily transportable trailers to provide solar-electric powered rinse showers. Crushed clamshells, a waste product from the local Chesapeake Bay seafood industries, have been used to pave roadways. Most of the unsightly overhead utility lines have been removed from the recreational beach to restore the natural appearance of the coastal landscape.

    The Park Service has also developed wayside exhibits to explain the project which they hope will serve as a model of sustainable bathhouse architecture. Chris Finlay, an NPS architect who worked on the bathhouse design, says: "For me, one of the most rewarding aspects of this project has been witnessing the interaction of the visitors with these facilities. They are enthusiastically curious about solar energy and sustainable design in general. My ultimate hope is that their interest will stay with them when they return home and influence the environmental impacts of decisions in their personal lives."

    The National Park Service will continue to work with the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory to plan and design a mechanical/electrical retrofit for the nearby Tom's Cove District Visitor Center facility and Assateague Beach Coast Guard Station. They are analyzing the economic feasibility of renewable energy sources such as passive solar-heated water, photovoltaic panels, and wind turbines. The ultimate goal is for the entire Tom's Cove District of Assateague Island National Seashore to be partly or completely "off-the-grid."

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    ArchWeek Image

    Lightweight cabanas can be easily removed from the beach when hurricanes threaten.
    Photo: National Park Service

    ArchWeek Image

    The sustainable features of the Assateague Island National Seashore bathhouse project.
    Image: National Park Service

    ArchWeek Image

    All the beach amenities are easily transportable.
    Photo: National Park Service

    ArchWeek Image

    Photovoltaic cells mounted on a trailer provide electricity for the beach visitors.
    Photo: National Park Service

     

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