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Bunker Center Garners Awards
June 9, 2005

Just nine months after it officially opened, Calvin College's Vincent and Helen Bunker Interpretive Center has been honored with two prestigious environmental awards, one national and one regional.

The first is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The second is a Blueprint Award from the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council.

Both awards recognize the many environmentally friendly features incorporated into the 5,270-square-foot Interpretive Center, which was dedicated on September 10, 2004 and welcomes and educates area visitors, many of them schoolchildren, to Calvin's 90-acre Ecosystem Preserve.

Calvin architect Frank Gorman, the designer of the Bunker Center, says both awards are significant honors.

"They affirm," says Gorman, "that Calvin College is on the cutting edge of sustainable construction practices and is sensitive to current national environmental issues."

The Gold rating is the second highest level of certification granted by the LEED Green Building Rating System, a national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. LEED standards award points for every aspect of a building’s sustainability: design; site; water efficiency; energy and atmosphere; materials; and indoor environmental quality.

The Interpretive Center is one of only two U.S. facilities of higher education, one of only four buildings in Michigan and one of only 67 buildings in the nation to earn a LEED Gold designation.

The Blueprint Awards recognize "persons, companies, agencies, municipalities or organizations that have helped advance the Blueprint vision: compact, livable communities; regional centers of employment; retention of open lands and well designed transportation and transit systems."

"We're very appreciative and very proud that we have a project that's been honored nationally and locally," Gorman says.

The Interpretive Center (built by Wolverine Construction Management and named for its lead donor, Helen Bunker, and her husband) was designed to exist harmoniously in the preserve environment. The building provides space for meetings, educational programs and displays, offices and a biology classroom.

A self-sustaining entity, the center is independent of the city's sewer system and primarily solar powered. Much of the material that went into the facility-including paneling, insulation and interior trim-is recycled. Gray water (used water) from the center's sinks recycles back into the preserve, and waste is handled by composting toilets. And the landscaping is comprised of indigenous species grown in the preserve itself.

In addition to providing classroom and study space for Calvin students, the Ecosystem Preserve regularly hosts classes from Grand Rapids-area schools as well as providing programming for children. Since the Interpretive Center opened, the preserve has doubled the number of visitors it attracts.

"This building is a tool to help people to better understand the environment and concepts of sustainability," Gorman says. "It's a pleasant building environment in a sylvan setting with interest for Calvin students, high school, middle school and elementary students from around the area, and other visitors to our campus."