There's a new role for invasive tree species at Emiquon. Once they're cut down, they'll be fed into a new biomass heating system that heats the Illinois Rivers Program Office, which has now received Gold-level LEED certification.
This system is just one of many environmentally-friendly features at the new office, which was completed in late 2017. The building's cutting-edge design and engineering earned it LEED certification, while also providing the space and equipment needed to further floodplain research at the preserve. For Jason Beverlin, deputy director of the Illinois Rivers Program, the new building blends environmental considerations with practical needs.
"We needed a facility that accommodated office and maintenance shop facilities," He explained. "Our first requirement was that it needed to be functional but it also needed to be efficient to operate and have an appearance that blended with the landscape. This building does it all."
The Conservancy's restored 6,700-acre Emiquon preserve near Havana, Illinois is one of the Midwest’s largest floodplain projects and on the leading edge of restoration science. Since 2002, it has been the central hub of research, stewardship, education, public engagement and administration for the more than 10,000 acres we manage in central and southern Illinois. Now that the gate that reconnects Emiquon to the Illinois River is complete, there are even more opportunities at the preserve to advance our floodplain restoration science.
But to see this next vision of conservation realized, Emiquon needed new facilities. The preserve’s previous headquarters and maintenance shop—which were constructed for agriculture—lacked the equipment, electrical wiring and HVAC system and space that are essential to accommodate our staff.
Thanks to a generous gift from the Tellabs Foundation, whose mission is to support nonprofit organizations in the priority areas of education, environment and health, construction on a new headquarters building at Emiquon was wrapped up in late 2017. The project included expanded office space for staff, a shop for equipment storage and maintenance and a dorm room for visiting scientists and interns. These facilities will enable the Illinois Rivers team to better engage researchers, scientists and the public by providing habitable space and upgraded equipment.
“For almost 20 years, the Tellabs Foundation has been proud to advance some of The Nature Conservancy’s most visionary work,” said Carol Gavin, Tellabs Foundation’s executive director. “Together, we’ve transformed the way Illinois’ natural resources are managed, increased the acreage of protected land across the state, and broadened support for conservation. Now, we’re excited to have a role in this next chapter of restoration work at Emiquon.”
Some of the office's other green features include solar panels, added insulation and triple pane windows, LED lights, stormwater storage, and recycled steel construction materials. Three geothermal wells provide the heating and cooling for the office and there will be priority parking for hybrid and commuter vehicles. Since March, the energy usage charge for the building has been $0. The building is also ADA-accessible.
“The Emiquon gate—which has been 15 years in the making— is the only structure of its kind,” said Carol. “It’s fitting that the headquarters are being elevated to a new level as well, allowing the Conservancy to address the pressing freshwater issues here in Illinois and around the world.