From the Desk of Rebecca LePrell
Spring 2016

Brock Center Wows Governor McAuliffe  

On the eve of Earth Day this year, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe took his first tour of our Brock Environmental Center since the building's completion. "Yes, he's the governor, but Terry McAuliffe couldn't help but blurt a 'Wow!'—like just about every other visitor to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Brock Environmental Center," the Virginian Pilot noted.

Governor of Virginia McAuliffe seining on a CBF education experience at the Brock Center.

Governor of Virginia McAuliffe testing the water at CBF Brock Center.

Community garden planting with VA First Lady at the Second Baptist Church of South Richmond. Photo by Kenny Fletcher, CBF Staff.
Photos (top to bottom): Governor of Virginia McAuliffe participating in an education experience (photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff) and testing the water at CBF's Brock Environmental Center (photo by Christy Everett/CBF Staff)—the first commercial building in the country to receive a permit to capture and treat rainwater for drinking water. Community garden planting with Virginia's First Lady at the Second Baptist Church of South Richmond (photo by Kenny Fletcher/CBF Staff). 

The visit came just before the Brock Center officially earned Living Building Challenge certification. One of the toughest building standards in the world, it requires a building to produce more energy than it uses over the course of 12 consecutive months and meet a host of other strict criteria for water use, site, health, materials, equity, and beauty.

The governor had last visited the center back in May 2014, when it was still an unfinished construction site. Since its opening a year and a half ago, the building has far surpassed expectations for efficiency and production of water and energy. With the certification, it's now a proven, replicable concept.

The Brock Center's solar panels and two small residential wind turbines have produced nearly twice as much energy than the building has used. The center is also precedent-setting as the first commercial building in the continental United States to receive a permit to capture and treat rainwater to federal water quality standards for drinking water. On his tour, Governor McAuliffe made sure to take a drink of Brock’s filtered rainwater, deeming it delicious. 

The center is also an open book for others to learn. It has become an important part of the community, hosting conferences, discussions, meetings, and local events for all. In the process, the building has inspired the more than 30,000 people who have visited since it opened. 

After his tour of Brock Center, Governor McAuliffe headed to the beach in front of the building to meet Virginia Beach Middle School students participating in a CBF education program. He joined the students in pulling a seine net through the Lynnhaven River, examining fish and crabs, and undertaking water quality testing. It was just one of the many CBF hands-on field experiences taking place across Virginia this spring, giving students a meaningful connection to our waters. 

Meanwhile, in Richmond, CBF celebrated another innovative achievement. A new community garden at the Second Baptist Church of South Richmond is bringing people together, providing fresh fruits and vegetables, and reducing polluted runoff. Capping off the major effort, this spring CBF staff and volunteers inaugurated the new garden with dozens of church members, community leaders, and Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe.

Over the last two years, Second Baptist has worked with CBF and partners to transform the church's once-barren grounds, adding a quarter acre of garden beds to grow healthy produce for the community. Church members now regularly tend plants in what they've dubbed Eden's Community Garden. The bounty means healthier meals in a food desert.

The effort also provides amazing clean water benefits. Rain falling on the building's roof flows into a 10,000-gallon cistern, preventing runoff and irrigating the plants. Additionally, hundreds of square feet of the parking lot have been turned into an enormous rain garden. This captures and filters much of the rainfall flowing across the lot, keeping pollution out of local streams. The improvements, largely funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, are a great example of how taking care of our waterways can also improve nutrition through access to fresh produce and can engage an entire community.

—Rebecca LePrell
Virginia Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

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