The November 2014 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.
Ironically, much of what makes the Brock Environmental Center "new" and "smart" is a return to very old ideas: using natural sunlight, wind, water, and earth to provide essential needs. Architects SmithGroupJJR and builder Hourigan Construction used only environmentally safe materials and low-impact building techniques to construct the center. And the building features many recycled and repurposed items donated by the Hampton Roads community, including old school bleachers, gym floors, sinks, lockers, and cabinets—even champagne corks.
In perhaps the ultimate "back to the future" twist, helping to make the center among the newest, most environmentally smart buildings in the world are some of the oldest, most enduring trees in the world. Sheathing the exterior walls of the center are planks from "sinker cypress" logs recovered from rivers and bayous in the Deep South. The logs are from first-growth cypress trees cut down more than a century ago but lost when they fell off barges and sank on the way to Southern sawmills.
The recently recovered logs—some of which are 500 to 1,000 years old—have been milled and used for the exterior siding of the building. Instead of lying submerged forever in the mud of a Louisiana river bottom, these ancient cypress logs provide beautiful, natural, chemical-free weather-proofing for the center.
Welcome to the Brock Environmental Center. Come explore and learn. We think you will be amazed. We know you will be inspired.
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