The mission of the Sweetwater Creek State Park is to sustain, enhance, protect and conserve Georgia’s natural, historic and cultural resources for present and future generations. The wise use of the resources of the park is necessary in order to provide recreational and educational prospects and facilities. The protection of the park resources is critical during fast urban growth. Atlanta grows and its demand for land use increases. The urbanization creates urban heat island effect, which is due to absorption of heat by asphalt and concrete cover. As trees and green cover help to reduce urban heat island effect, the protection of parks is important. In 1998, the Chattahoochee River was names one of the nations’ most Endangered Rivers by the American Rivers Environmental Group. The river receives a large amount of pollutants brought by rainwater runoff which is due to the urbanization. One of the goals of the park is protection of the rivers that flow through the park and fish population in those rivers. Due to urban growth, the demand to the park increases creating problems with trail compaction and erosion and unmanageable litter. The park offers several programs for public to participate in the park conservation such as: Rivers Alive Cleanup, P2AD-Pollution Prevention, Waste Management, Trail Maintenance, Recycling.
Due to conservation efforts, the Visitor Center was built in a sustainable design in 2006. It is 9,000 square feet (840 m2) building which construction cost $1.5 or $173/SF. The Visitor Center has received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, which is the highest level attainable. In 2007, the Visitor Center was one of only twenty platinum rated buildings in the world and it was the first in the Southeast. The building’s reduced impact: 77% reduced in water use, 51% reduction in electricity use, 80% of construction waste diverted from landfill, no increase in stormwater runoff after construction, and daylighting in 83% of interior spaces. The building is built into a hillside to minimize the physical and visual disturbance to the land. To reduce the urban heat island effect and water runoff, two 2,800-square-foot (260 m2) building’s roofs are planted with native plants, green roofs. The green roofs are 12-inch (300 mm) deep.
The sun-controlling feature of the building allows the sun to warm the interior in winter and reduces solar energy in summer. The northern side of the building has clerestory windows that allow indirect sunlight into the building. The southern side of the building has shelves that bounce light into the interior. The building uses photocells and motion sensors for general lighting. Approximately 20% of the building electricity is produced by 10.5 kW photovoltaic arrays consisting of new and recycled solar panels. The building’s long side faces south allowing the solar panels to receive maximum sunlight. The building’s annual energy savings are 57,969 kilowatt hours which avoid 27 tons of carbon emissions per year.
The Visitors Center uses the existing parking lot, minimizing more disturbance. The park has bioretention ponds to prevent downstream flooding and to filter storm water runoff with aquatic vegetation. The building’s construction materials such as steel structure, aluminum siding and framing are made from recycled materials. The construction waste is recycled. In order to save fuel by avoiding transportation of goods from farther away, the park used masonry stucco, fly-ash concrete and other local materials. In order to save water, the park collects rain water, has a composting toilet, Clivus multrum that uses no potable water, waterless urinals, and pervious concrete.
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