Imagine a Building as Efficient and Beneficial as a Tree

10734192_10152730427875943_234172962746341259_nPhoto by Chris Gorri/CBF Staff.

Imagine a building as efficient and beneficial as a tree.

Imagine saving one of the last natural areas in Virginia Beach from development.

Imagine producing all the power you need from nature.

Imagine eliminating the nastiest chemicals from where you work.

Imagine drinking rain water.

You don't need to imagine anymore. We've done it.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Brock Environmental Center, now open at Pleasure House Point in Virginia Beach, is one of the most energy efficient, environmentally smart buildings in the world.

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CBF's President Will Baker leads the ceremonial "unplugging" symbolizing the opening of the Brock Environmental Center. Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff.

With its solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal wells, rain cisterns, waterless toilets, and natural landscaping, the center is an international model for energy- and water-efficiency. Elevated 14 feet above sea level, it is also a prototype for coping with climate change in a region increasingly prone to flooding.

"We hoped to raise the bar for environmentally smart buildings when we envisioned the Brock Environmental Center," CBF President Will Baker said. "And I think we've done that with this remarkable building."

Named after Virginia Beach philanthropists Joan and Macon Brock, the Brock Center houses CBF's Hampton Roads staff and that of Lynnhaven River NOW, a Virginia Beach conservation group. It also provides meeting space for community discussions and serves as headquarters for CBF's award-winning environmental education programs for Hampton Roads teachers and students.

Rooftop solar panels and wind turbines generate all power for the center, and even return surplus clean, renewable energy back to the grid. The center uses rainwater for all its water needs, including drinking water. It is believed to be the first commercial-scale building in the continental United States to do so.

Any excess rain water and "gray water" flow into nearby rain gardens of native grasses, flowers, and shrubs. Even the center's bathrooms use waterless toilets that compost waste in waterproof bins until the odorless, harmless compost can be spread on the grounds.

Anticipating more regional flooding, the center is raised 14 feet above sea level. There are no paved parking lots to interfere with natural drainage; staff and visitors park on nearby streets and walk to the center on a natural path through the woods. Any code-required handicap and emergency access areas use permeable pavers that let water soak in rather than run off. More importantly, the surrounding sand, shrubs, and trees remain largely untouched, allowing flood waters to spread and recede naturally without harm to the center or nearby neighborhoods.

Today's opening of the Brock Environmental Center concludes a successful community effort to save the 118-acre Pleasure House Point tract from development. As recently as 2008, developers intended to build more than 1,100 new high-rise condos and townhouses on the property. The collapse of the housing market in 2009, however, led bankers to foreclose on the property. A community partnership with CBF, the City of Virginia Beach, and the Trust for Public Land purchased the land from the bank in 2012, preserving it for open space and environmental education.

Welcome to the Brock Environmental Center. Come explore and learn. We think you will be amazed. We know you will be inspired.

--Chuck Epes, CBF's Assistant Director of Media Relations

Partnering with CBF to create the Brock Environmental Center were SmithGroupJJR, Hourigan Construction, Skanska, and WPL Site Design all partnered with CBF to create the Brock Environmental Center.  

Emmy Nicklin




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