Mary McConnell stood in the lobby of the Efroymson Conservation Center—amid the iconic Indiana limestone and beautiful native Indiana hardwoods—and welcomed guests inside. The Nature Conservancy’s vision of an ultra-efficient building in downtown Indianapolis that treads lightly on the environment was a reality. And Tuesday evening, while surrounded by many of the people who made it possible, Mary witnessed the Conservancy’s visionary building receive the highest honor possible.
The Efroymson Conservation Center is the headquarters of the Indiana Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, where Mary is state director. It recently received Platinum Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program with the highest rating of any building in Indiana. The chair of the Indiana Chapter of the USGBC was on hand Tuesday to present the honor.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” said McConnell. “Since our building opened we’ve received countless awards and attention for our energy and water-efficient building, and the LEED Platinum certification is the icing on the cake.”
Several years ago, staff from the Indiana Chapter envisioned building a chapter headquarters in downtown Indianapolis that not only mirrored the Conservancy’s mission of protecting nature, but one that also could serve as an example for other urban development. Their vision was aided immeasurably by a supportive board of trustees, particularly those trustees who served on its building committee, which made many of the strategic decisions during the design process. And nothing could have happened without financial support, and McConnell cites trustee Lori Efroymson-Aguilera and the Efroymson Family Fund as true catalysts to make the vision a bricks-and-mortar reality.
Step into any room of the Efroymson Conservation Center, and McConnell could point out at least two or three “green” features that set it apart from conventional office buildings. Her excitement is infectious as she points out the raised flooring that helps with energy efficiency or the bricks that were salvaged from the building previously on the site. She’s particularly proud of the building’s water retention and usage system, whereby all the water that falls on the site during a rain shower stays on the site or is absorbed by the native landscaping and filters through to Pogues Run, which runs underneath the City to the White River. Some of the rain water is collected in the Center’s cistern and subsequently used to water the native plantings or flush the toilets.
“That in itself brings tremendous value to the Conservancy,” says McConnell, “but it also brings value to the City of Indianapolis. Because of our water retention system, we are not connected to the City’s combined sewer overflow system, and the water not coming from just our half-acre site will save the City almost $700,000 over a 30-year period.”
McConnell is a shrewd businesswoman, as are the building committee trustees, so when they met with designers from Axis Architects, their message was clear: Build us a green building at a cost no more than that of a conventional office building. That was accomplished, and now the Conservancy also reaps the benefits of reduced water and energy costs.
In her remarks, Mary thanked the several of the donors to the building. In addition to the Efroymson Family Fund, donors include Frank and Judy Bracken, Randolph Deer and Wayne Zink, the Lilly Endowment, and the Frederick and Dorothy Meyer Family.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.