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Rain Forest Ideas on Display
Designers Attend Environmental Conference

Adam Pracht

Iowa City Press-Citizen

November 9, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by the Press-Citizen, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Iowa City Press-Citizen.]

CORALVILLE -- Architects and consultants with an enclosed rain forest project are attending a conference on environmentally conscious architecture starting today with plans to promote the project and to bring back ideas for it.

The $180 million Environmental Project, planned to anchor the Iowa River Landing development southeast of Interstate 80 and First Avenue, would include a 4.5 acre enclosed rain forest, a one million gallon aquarium and teaching space.

David Oman, the project's executive director, said the structure should also exemplify the principles of the U.S. Green Building Council.

The council gives a certification, called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, to buildings that meet standards for design and materials that are friendly to the environment, use renewable energy sources and are healthy to their tenants.

Oman said those concepts are being incorporated into the rain forest design, making it a showcase of Green Building Council concepts. Oman said the president of the council, Rick Fedrizzi, is also a member of the project's board and has been supportive of the rain forest.

"They see many similarities between their mission and ours," Oman said. "We've been very appreciative of their interest."

The fourth annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo 2005 begins today in Atlanta and runs until Friday and should attract 450 exhibitors of businesses and organizations employing Green Building Council standards. More than 8,000 people from 21 countries attended the 2004 conference.

Representatives of Grimshaw Architects and RDG Inc., who will be designing the rain forest together, will attend the conference and present their green building techniques.

Grimshaw representatives will talk about a software tool called Environmentally Viable Architecture, which helps architects better understand the environmental effects of their designs. Grimshaw spokesman Georgia Wright said the tool was used with the Eden Project in England -- a similar project to The Environmental Project -- and would be used with the rain forest project in Coralville as well.

Wright said she was sure the architects would come away with new ideas, and it was possible some of them would find their way into the rain forest project.

But just as importantly, Wright said, the rain forest project would get exposure at a high level.

"It is important for projects to be mentioned at conferences ... to make them known to a wider audience. This benefits both the project and Grimshaw, and I'm sure it will have an effect at Greenbuild," she said.

Environmental consultant with the project, John Picard, and marketing consultant Kris Moorman also are attending the conference.

Oman also said it was important for others interested in green buildings to understand the project and see potential in it.

He said project officials were keen to learn what the consultants and architects learned at the conference and said it was likely the project would send a more official delegation to next year's expo.

"We certainly expect people will come back with good ideas, some of which could also be woven into our thinking," Oman said. "No one has a corner on good ideas."