The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's New Home
Normally, the news that some organization is moving into a new headquarters building is not very exciting. But not every new headquarters building is like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Merrill Center. It's one of those rare cases where design, location, and construction all come together to help get out CBF's basic message: "Save The Bay."

It begins with the site: 31 acres on the Bay's western shore, just south of Annapolis. The Center is built on top of an existing pool and poolhouse, which meant that new ground would not have to be disturbed, preventing the release of sediment. Water for hand-washing and fire-fighting will be supplied from cisterns filled by rainwater, reducing the amount of water that has to come from wells or city supplies. Over half the materials used to build the Center were made within a 300-mile radius, which not only supports local businesses, but reduces the amount of energy required to transport materials from more distant locations.

The Center is heated in part by geothermal heat pumps, which take advantage of the constant temperature of the earth below the frost line. The building's frame and other wooden parts come from new growth wood, or recycled wood that is glued together from bits and pieces that would otherwise have been wasted. In fact, recycled materials are used throughout the building (including recycled pickle barrels, which were used to make window shades and park benches!) The Center does not contribute to the problem of processing sewage, either: it is equipped with no-flush, composting toilets.

Outside, the Merrill Center is just as exciting and just as environmentally-conscious. You won't see much of a parking lot here: it's mostly under the building, to reduce the run-off and harmful erosion caused by large asphalt surfaces. When vehicles do park outside, they'll be parking on gravel, which lets water drain away harmlessly. Whatever storm run-off does occur will be specially treated to remove oils and other chemicals before it is released to the Bay through a wetland "filter."

The Center is landscaped with native plants, placed in settings that recreate as closely as possible what the site might have looked like before development. There are no lawns, but there are meadows and grasslands that only require single mowing each year to keep them healthy and good-looking.

The new CBF headquarters will be open in December, ready to receive 90 CBF employees, and a whole new generation of visitors from schools and surrounding communities. The Philip Merrill Center has already received the highest rating of any U.S. office building by the U.S. Green Building Council, and it may just be the greenest office building in history!

Chesapeake: A Bay Trippers Adventure is broadcast by MPT's K-12 Educational Video Service.
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