Nueva School administrators decided to invest in a campus expansion project that converted an old parking lot into a new library, student center, and classroom building clustered around a central plaza. A major goal of the project was to create a landscape that would showcase ecological water-management techniques but also function as an educational tool for students.
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Green roofs installed on top of the new library and student center absorb and retain rain water, which helps reduce the burden on local storm drains. Combined, the two green roofs create more than 10,000 square feet of California grassland habitat, an endangered resource, that has attracted native birds, insects, and other wildlife.
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Drought-tolerant vegetated swales separate the levels of the new central plaza. During rain storms, water flows from the plaza’s hard surfaces into the swales to help prevent stormwater runoff.
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To sustain the landscape during drier periods, the project employs an innovative irrigation system that helps optimize water use. The system is automatically set to run on weather data provided via satellite and information collected on the site’s soils, slopes, and exposure to sunlight.
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The constructed California grassland appears to engulf the new library building. The soil and plant material insulate the rooms within, helping reduce the amount of energy needed to regulate interior temperature.
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The new construction required the removal of several Monterrey Cypress trees. Fortunately, the trees did not lose their place in the landscape as the reclaimed wood was used to create the decking and outdoor furniture seen here. Their inclusion in the landscape helps educate students about sustainable resource use.
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A concrete channel lined with river pebbles allows children to witness water flow during rainstorms. Interacting with the water provides context and educates students about the environmental problems associated with stormwater runoff, such as water pollution and flooding.
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A local artist was hired to imprint leaves of native plant species onto the concrete floor of the central plaza. As an art and science project, students make rubbings of these leaf imprints, and then visit the actual trees in the surrounding woodlands. This fun activity connects the children to the environment and helps them learn about different native tree species.
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