COLUMBIA — After nearly two years of planning and construction, the Missouri Department of Conservation officially opened the doors of its new regional headquarters to the public at a Friday afternoon dedication.
The $6 million building was named after former Columbia conservationist E. Sydney Stephens. As Don Johnson of the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the state Conservation Commission cut the ribbon, he dedicated the building not only to Stephens but also to the people of Missouri.
“E. Sydney Stephens played a critical role in the formation of MDC 75 years ago,” said Jeff Cockerham, MDC Outreach and Education regional supervisor. “He drafted the conservation amendment to our state constitution and directed the campaign for its adoption. Stephens also served as the first chairman of the Conservation Commission in 1936 and served for two-terms, or 10 years, on the commission.
Stephens' ties to Columbia go back to his grandfather, who was the founder of Stephens College. Stephens was an avid waterfowl and quail hunter, a passion that initially brought him into the conservation field. In the Columbia community, Stephens helped establish Boone County Hospital, held leadership positions in the chamber of commerce and was a member of the Columbia City Council."
The new building boasts several high-end innovations that exceeded standards set by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
Planning supervisor Dan Zekor is chair of the building's science center.
“The city of Columbia is very aware of impact and all things green," Zekor said. "It was important that a building with the word 'conservation' in the title focus on that.”
Nearly every aspect, from the parking lot’s geogrid to the carefully placed rain barrels scattered around the property, has a special function in what designer and project engineer Annika Careaga of Midwest Environmental Consultants called a “Follow the Water” theme.
“(The Missouri Department of Conservation) really wanted this building to be a demonstration project,” she said, “to show people that they can incorporate rain tanks and rain gardens into their own architecture.” Careaga explains how the original design helped make that possible.
"I joke that it's the Show-Me state and people want to come touch it and feel it and see it themselves before they do it and that's what we're hoping this site can do," said Careaga. "This is totally original."
The interior features recycled carpeting, indoor sky lighting and structurally insulated panels, which consist of two wooden panels with insulation sandwiched between to reduce air infiltration.
The office space also includes energy efficient lights that automatically turn on and off when people enter and leave spaces. The windows were made with insulated glass that allows bright light to come in without the heat. Ceilings are suspended acoustic tiles. A geothermal heating and cooling system runs throughout the facility; it contains 98 tons of coolant and taps 65 wells, each 300 feet deep.
A one-third mile trail allows the public to view exterior innovations and to learn from an interactive map that explains each step of the building’s rain water overflow system.
Careaga described the design process as working backward.
“We looked at the land and where the rain falls so that the placement of the building would flow with the rain water," she said. "We worked backwards so that we could utilize the site and reduce the amount of impervious materials and our impact on the land.”
The new regional headquarters and research center replaces the conservation department's previous locations at College Avenue and Stadium Boulevard and on Hillcrest Drive.
Architecture manager for the Missouri Department of Conservation, Kenny Poore, describes the difference between the old building and the new in terms of space, which is smaller but better used.
"The square footage of that building, the old resource science building, plus our old central regional office building we had less square footage here for the same amount of people," Poore said.
MU owns the building at College and Stadium. Christian Basi of the MU News Bureau said plans for that structure remain in the works.
“We’re currently evaluating it to see how it might fit based on needs, strengths and weaknesses, the condition of the building. It all depends on location as well as resources.”
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.