Patrick Shea, a landscape architect with the National Park Service's Denver Service Center, led a project team and partnership effort to make the new Visitor Center at Zion National Park as resource efficient as possible, seeking to minimize its impact on the environment while enhancing the visitor's experiences. Energy reducing strategies were developed with assistance from the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which, overall, have reduced energy consumption by 80 percent over traditional building use.
Patrick Shea and Assistant Secretary Lynn Scarlett
In the winter, a Trombe wall, which captures solar energy between a pane of glass and black selective coating, slowly heats the south facing masonry walls and radiates heat throughout the building. In the summer, natural ventilation is enhanced with down-draft cooltowers, which serve as the building's primary cooling system. Photovoltiac panels reduce imported energy requirements further by generating on-site 7,200 watts, nearly 30 percent of the electricity used. Site orientation and facility use strategies also contribute to the efficiency of the Visitor Center. Utilizing the favorable climatic and site conditions, indoor building space was reduced by designing outdoor interpretive display areas in a shaded plaza. The Visitor Center also serves as the hub for a new transportation system that transports visitors from the gateway town of Springdale, Utah, into the park on propane-fueled shuttle buses. This system allowed the design team to reduce the parking lot size by half.