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  Parker River National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters & Visitor Center, Page 29SUSTAINABLE DESIGN
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters & Visitor Center

1050 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138

Plum Island, Massachusetts
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters & Visitor Center
Total Square Feet: 16,100
Construction Period: Feb 2002 to May 2004 
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge Shop/Service Bay & Garage
Total Square Feet: 5,500
Construction Period: Feb 2002 to May 2004 

GENERAL CONTRACTOR: T R White Company, Inc. - 368 Congress Street, Boston, MA 02210
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Lim Consultants, Inc. - 90 Hamilton Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
MECHANICAL & PLUMBING ENGINEER: Syska Hennessy Group - One Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02142
COST ESTIMATOR: Hanscomb Faithful & Gould - 55 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02110
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Carol R. Johnson Associates - 115 Broad Street, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02110

The new Parker River National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters and Visitor Center for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) serves as an interpretive natural history museum with an educational and operational focus for Plum Island and the Parker River Watershed in Newburyport, Massachusetts – one of the few natural barrier beach islands along the Northeast coast.

Encompassing a visitor center, administrative offices, and maintenance facility, the design by Cambridge Seven Associates (C7A) of Cambridge, Massachusetts respects the tranquil environment of the tidal marsh ecosystem and protects its wildlife and fragile resources, while fulfilling an interpretive exhibit program for 250,000 visitors a year. With the goal to be a good and environmentally-friendly neighbor guided by sustainable design principles, the architecture evokes a contemporary interpretation of New England agricultural assemblages, sitting comfortably within the classic simple lines of wood clapboard residential buildings in the area.

The three program elements are expressed as a cluster of low buildings that are sensitive to the wetlands and natural landscape on the site. The new Visitor Center allows for the expansion and refinement of the Refuge’s environmental education programs to use the interior exhibit galleries and the entire project site as an interpretive education program. Outdoor exhibit elements are linked and sequenced to exhibits inside the building, inviting the visitor to explore and learn in a relaxed, informal, and intuitive environment.

The main exhibit area is lit by operable clerestory windows providing natural ventilation. Lower area exhibits are oriented to views out to the wetlands. A taller form and enclosed volume to the right of the building entry houses a small 100-seat auditorium with audiovisual capabilities supporting programs related to Plum Island and community outreach. Another form on the building encloses two multipurpose classrooms for training and for educational programming related to environmental conservation and wildlife habitats.

Filled with natural light, ventilation, and views to the surroundings, the Administrative Offices combine enclosed spaces and open office areas that encourage collaboration among USFWS staff and its partnering citizen advocacy group and state conservation groups. The Administrative Offices consist of open areas, shared studio space, and central filing as well as enclosed spaces such as private offices, conferencing, and support spaces. Views and natural light are accessible to all staff, and operable sashes on windows offer natural ventilation.

The sensitive siting and clustered composition of the Operations Center allows a garage and large equipment storage, shop activities, and vehicle repair functions to be integrated into the complex in a respectful yet functional way. It was important to the USFWS from the start that the building embody sustainable design principles. The USFWS is a conservation agency with an educational mission and outreach. It was important to ‘talk the talk and walk the walk’. The development of the architectural design incorporated sustainable design elements that take advantage of site and climatic opportunities, and employ materials and detailing that reduce energy consumption and maintenance while extending the life cycle of the building.

DIV 03:
Concrete Stain: Chromix® by L.M. Scofield.
DIV 07: Manufactured Roofing & Siding: Englert Inc.
DIV 09: Gypsum: USG Durock®.

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