Pella has been privileged to partner with a number of incredible organizations. But every once in a while, we’re given the opportunity to contribute to a project that is truly special. The Westwood Hills Nature Center is one such project.
Nestled in the wooded nature sanctuary of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, the Westwood Hills Nature Center is a stunning architectural feat that works to both incorporate elements from and blend with the surrounding landscape via sustainable design practices. More importantly than aesthetics, the Westwood Hills Nature Center is a net zero energy project that was commissioned by the city itself — one of the first in the state.
And who did St. Louis Park city officials champion to design such a project? That would be none other than HGA.
HGA: The Mind Behind the Design
An award-winning national interdisciplinary design firm, HGA makes it their mission to create a positive, lasting impact through design. Their incredible buildings serve as holistic solutions across industries, including healthcare, higher education and the arts, just to name a few.
Pella’s had the pleasure of working alongside HGA before on several nature centers across Minnesota, as well as other public buildings that required custom design strategies and high performance standards. So we couldn’t have been more excited when HGA invited our team to help design the windows and doors of this net zero nature center in the heart of St. Louis Park.
Operation: Save The Birds
For the Westwood Hills Nature Center, our team’s challenge was to fabricate bird-safe window glass to protect the local wildlife around the building. Bird-safe glass is glass that displays a pattern that alerts birds to the presence of an obstacle, thus preventing bird strikes on buildings.
Pella’s team collaborated closely with HGA and the National Audubon Society to consider their recommendations, and then coordinated with both HGA and our general contractor RJM to custom design a horizontal line fret pattern for our windows. To maintain an elegant and cohesive look, we worked meticulously to make sure all horizontal lines matched up evenly throughout the building’s elevations.
But our bird-safe glass required more than just a pattern – it also included sourcing Ornilux glass from Germany. For this project we ended up using two different types of bird-safe glass:
Viracon Medium Gray Tint tempered glass (complete with our custom horizontal fret pattern) and the Ornilux N10 tempered glass. Window types included high-quality Pella Reserve Contemporary fixed frames, durable Pella Reserve Traditional awnings, and versatile Pella Reserve Traditional casements. And finally, for the building’s entrances and exits, we installed Pella Reserve Traditional commercial outswing doors.
The building owners were very pleased with the fit and finish of our windows and doors, and our team was so thrilled to be able to contribute to both the aesthetic and sustainability factors of this incredible project.
The Westwood Hills Nature Center: From Nondescript to Net Zero
From its humble beginnings as a small, remote and nondescript building from the 1980s, the now sophisticated and sustainable 13,000-square-foot environmental learning center has been an immediate success with the community.
And, after being open for just a couple years, the building recently reached its goal of obtaining the Zero Energy Certification from the International Living Future Institute (IFLI).
The Net Zero Energy Certification just confirms that the building truly is living up to its high energy performance standards by “harnessing energy from the sun, wind or earth to produce net annual energy demand.”
That means the Westwood Hills Nature Center is 100% self sustained when it comes to energy use. And in Minnesota’s cold winter climate, that’s a huge accomplishment.
Today, the building's many multipurpose rooms are used for environmental education, public events and other learning activities. When visitors walk through the center, they can learn about sustainable design from the educational signage posted throughout the building and grounds, detailing everything from stormwater management practices to winter sun solar collection. The Nature Center stands as a shining example of how net zero energy design is achievable, even in the Great North.
For their incredible work with the Westwood Hills Nature Center, HGA won an American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE®) Top Ten Award. This award is the architecture industry’s highest honor for sustainable design.
Make Pella a Part of Your Project’s Green Initiative
We are proud to have been a part of the Westwood Hills Nature Center's success in achieving net zero energy status. If you’re interested in learning more about how Pella’s windows could lower your building’s environmental impact, contact us today. We’d love to talk more about your project’s sustainability goals and how Pella’s energy-efficient window and door solutions can help you achieve them. With thoughtful collaboration and sustainable design, we can create a more environmentally responsible future for everyone.