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18 January 2007
Little River Canyon Center Goes for Silver

By Jennifer Bacchus
News Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Pete Conroy, Director of the Environmental Policy and Information Center, shows off the faux stone that will make up the facade of the building. Photo: Jennifer Bacchus

The Little River Canyon Center’s physical footprint may cover 25,000 square feet, but it was designed for a small environmental footprint.

The building, currently under construction outside Fort Payne, is well on its way to being Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified and Randy Whorton of Whorton Engineering, the LEED accredited profession working on the project is aiming for certification at the LEED silver level, which required a minimum of 33 out of 69 possible points.

“There are various different levels that you can get, which are certified, silver, gold and platinum. This building, we know that we are going to get certified, we are hoping that we are going to get silver,” said Whorton. “Silver is quite a bit tougher to get, so we don’t know if we will quite get there or not, but the main thing is we want to get this building LEED certified.”

A big part of the environmental savings will be in the heating and cooling of the building – the geothermal heat pump, which uses HFC-410A, a zero ozone depletion refrigerant.

Thirty-six wells, or boreholes as they are called by the engineers, will be drilled a short distance away from the building and will be 300 feet deep.

The system is not only energy efficient and safe for the ozone, it also has lower maintenance costs – many of the materials used are guaranteed for at least 50 years.

Another large project for LEED certification is the center’s water conservation measures. Waterless urinals, low-flow showers, sinks with sensors and low-consumption toilets are only part of the measures taken to conserve water.

“We’ll be capturing rainwater and using that for our landscaping program,” said Pete Conroy, Director of the Environmental Policy and Information Center at Jacksonville State University, which oversees the project.

In addition to the reuse of rainwater, the landscaping will be done using native plants to reduce their water needs.

While the owners and builders of a LEED project can choose from a list of ways to gain points toward certification, there are seven prerequisites, which give the project no points toward certification, but add an additional level of environmental friendliness.

Among those prerequisites are control of construction pollution – keeping it from going into neighboring areas – and the storage and collection of recyclables.

But projects to earn LEED points can also be aimed at the comfort of the workers and visitors. Indoor environmental quality is important to the United States Green Building Council, the governing group behind LEED certification.

There is a prerequisite for the control of tobacco smoke and points are given for using products in construction, such as flooring and paint, that are low-emitting or for a well-designed thermal comfort system. That’s right, the building’s air has to be clean and just the right temperature.

The building itself will also be quite beautiful, with a faux stone façade that looks real, high ceilings in many areas and comfortable furniture.

The faux stone is important, because while the building may sit on a mountain at the edge of a canyon, Conroy didn’t want to harm any real mountains in the construction.

“Even the rock – we didn’t have to blow up a mountain, so even it is environmentally friendlier,” said Conroy.

The Little River Canyon Center will also be home to several different projects. It will become the new center of operations for the Little River Field School, operated by EPIC, and will house various classes for JSU students.

One end of the building, just behind the museum and gift shop, will be an area set aside for the National Park Service.

Out back will, eventually, have an amphitheatre for performances. The project doesn’t quite have the funds yet to complete their plans on it or to complete the museum, but Conroy is hoping with the help of individuals and businesses his dreams and the dreams of the hundreds of individuals involved with the project will come true.

To watch video of the construction visit

About Jennifer Bachus

Jennifer Bacchus is a staff writer at The Jacksonville News. She can be reached at 256-435-5021 or via e-mail at

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