A wonderful new visitor center is ready to greet you at Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado, one that can orient you to the park and which features some of the more than 3 million artifacts in the park's collections.
The center also is highly "green," having received the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification, the Council’s highest rating for sustainable buildings.
The 23,620-sqauare-foot building consists of two components: a 16,256-square-foot Research and Collection Facility and a 7,364-square-foot visitor information center. Along with orienting yourself to the park here, you can also purchase tickets to tour Mesa Verde's famed cliff dwellings, tour exhibits, and check out the bookstore run by the Mesa Verde Museum Association. The visitor information center was completed in November, 2012 and opened to the public in December 2012. A grand opening celebration is planned for May 23, 2013.
“Mesa Verde National Park is proud to have obtained this rating which is in keeping with the mission of the National Park Service to preserve and protect,” said Mesa Verde Superintendent Cliff Spencer. “It also answers the NPS Call to Action, an initiative to prepare the NPS for a second century of stewardships and engagement.”
This project addresses the “Going Green” action item by reducing the Mesa Verde National Park carbon footprint through the use of renewable energy sources, and action item “Out with the Old” by installing interpretive media that offers interactive experiences and are accessible to all members of the public.
Many stakeholders and partners came together to create this high-performance sustainable building that demonstrates the use of energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, recycling, and environmentally preferable materials. The on-site renewable energy systems are capable of providing 95 percent of the building energy requirements.
The building includes many sustainability features such as improved building envelope, reduced lighting power requirements, advanced lighting controls, high-efficiency HVAC system, and on-site renewable energy systems (i.e. solar water heating, hydroelectric power from a micro-hydro turbine, and photovoltaics). Together with the other integrated sustainable features, LEED Platinum certification was achieved for the VRC.
In addition, all of the regularly occupied spaces within the facility have day lighting and most have access to outdoor views.
This $14.3 million construction project was funded through NPS Line Item Construction Funds and managed by the Denver Service Center, the NPS centralized office for planning, design and construction services. The Mesa Verde Foundation, the park’s friends group, donated 37.5 acres of land for the building site.
This facility replaces the Far View Visitor Center and ‘tin shed,’ which did not meet rigorous standards for museum artifacts and was in a high fire danger area as well. The Far View Visitor Center is currently closed to the public and will be used for other park purposes.
The VRC is located at the park’s entrance just off Highway 160 approximately 8 miles west of Mancos, Colorado and 9 miles east of Cortez, Colorado.