CBF Building Exhibits a Resilient Future

The following first appeared in The Virginian-Pilot.

CBF's Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach, VA was built with climate change in mind. Photo by Chris Gorri/CBF Staff.

This year's rough weather has battered Hampton Roads. It's not just the summer's brutal heat wave. It's the deluge of seven inches of rain that fell in just two hours in July, the high waters that surrounded buildings when Hurricane Hermine hit over Labor Day, and the 13 inches of rain that fell overnight in late September, or the massive amounts of rain that accompanied Hurricane Matthew.

Newscasts and the newspaper have been filled with images of water lapping around houses, submerged cars, and rowboats navigating flooded streets.

It's a window into the future.

But since opening nearly two years ago, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach has remained undamaged. Sometimes, even as rains fell and the winds howled, locals gathered there to watch storms roll in over the Lynnhaven River. They knew that the CBF building is climate-change ready, designed to be resilient in the face of the toughest weather.

"After a bad storm, community members visit the Brock Center to see how it weathered," said Brock Center Manager Chris Gorri. "Severe weather becomes a teachable moment. People ask questions about the wind turbines or want to see how high the water is on the Lynnhaven River." Some want to learn how they can adapt their own homes to better cope with recurrent flooding.

Designed and built to withstand the effects some of the worst weather in the world, the center is a model for a region increasingly at risk. According to Old Dominion University's Center for Sea Level Rise, sea levels have risen 14 inches in Hampton Roads since 1930. Low lying cities, rising waters, and sinking lands are why.

The Brock Center is ready. It is raised 14 feet above sea level, staying high and dry during flooding. Its windows can withstand a collision with a two-by-four hurled at 110 miles per hour. Its grounds are designed to eliminate runoff.

Gravel paths and permeable roadways and parking areas let water soak into the ground. The Brock Center's one-of-a-kind rainwater treatment system filters rain falling on the center's roof for use as drinking water.

The building is set far back from the river, with a wide sandy buffer of grasses and shrubs that absorbs storm surges.

In early October, Hurricane Matthew brought strong winds and up to 12 inches of rain in the region, inundating some roadways under several feet of water. Schools closed, power was out for days, and officials urged cutbacks on water usage because of stressed sewer systems.

At the Brock Center, that storm flipped over benches and knocked over a large sturdy sign. But the strongest flooding seen at Brock came a year earlier, as storms linked to Hurricane Joaquin sent water from the Lynnhaven River rushing knee-deep under the raised building. Neither storm damaged the building or its wind turbines.

The Brock Center also fights back against climate change with its residential wind turbines and solar panels, which produce far more energy than the building consumes and send clean excess energy to the grid. The center's energy conservation allows it to use 80 percent less energy than a typical office building of its size.

Thanks to these innovations, earlier this year the Brock Center achieved one of the toughest building standards in the world. Living Building Challenge certification from the International Living Future Institute requires a building to produce more energy than it uses over the course of 12 consecutive months and meet a host of other strict criteria.

As we increasingly grapple with the effects of climate change, the Brock Center shines brightly as a solution. Sustainability means more than just energy efficiency. It means being able to sustain the extremes nature can and will throw at us. With Brock, we're proving that we have a choice to raise the bar, reduce pollution, and adapt to climate change.

And, we can do it in comfort and beauty.

—Mary Tod Winchester, CBF's Vice President for Administration

This Week in the Watershed

CBF's Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach earned the distinguished designation of a "Living Building." Photo by Dave Chance.

Despite our world's obsession with growth, the reality is we live on a planet with finite resources. Right now, we're faced with significant challenges, namely climate change and accompanying sea-level rise. Into this picture steps CBF's Brock Environmental Center based in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

This week, the International Living Future Institute designated our Brock Center a "Living Building." From the ground up, Brock is the embodiment of sustainability. First, it was built on land that originally was slated for a massive condo complex. Saving this property from large-scale development not only was critical for the environment, it also preserved a public space for the community. Once construction began, only environmentally safe materials and low-impact building techniques were used. The building features many recycled and repurposed items donated by the Hampton Roads community, including old school bleachers, gym floors, sinks, lockers, and cabinets.

In operation, Brock is energy and water independent, producing twice as much energy as it consumes, and is the first commercial building in the continental United States permitted to capture and treat rainfall for use as drinking water. With an eye towards the future, Brock was built anticipating the effects of climate change, raised 14 feet above sea level.

Last but not least, Brock exemplifies its green roots through serving as the home to a new hands-on, field-based environmental education program. Not only do students explore the natural world surrounding Brock, but they explore the center itself, as the building serves as an inspirational model on sustainable living. One of the toughest building standards in the world, the Living Building Challenge certification demonstrates how buildings should be constructed given our finite resources.

This Week in the Watershed: A Living Building, Rainy Days, and a Failing Harbor

  • CBF President Will Baker writes on how agricultural pollution must be addressed if we are going to Save the Bay. (Bay Journal)
  • CBF's Brock Environmental Center, based in Virginia Beach, VA, was declared one of the world's greenest buildings, earning the elite title of a "Living Building." (The Virginian-Pilot—VA) Bonus: Daily Press—VA
  • The onslaught of rainy days has local farms, including CBF's Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro, MD, struggling to meet harvest quotas. (DCist)
  • A report released this week found that oyster restoration projects in Maryland's Choptank River are finding success. (Star Democrat—MD)
  • A new study suggests fish in the Chesapeake Bay and other estuaries face a greater risk from climate change than previously expected. (Bay Journal)
  • Pennsylvania joined Maryland and Virginia in recognizing the week of June 5-11 as Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week. (The Daily Review—PA) Bonus: CBF Press Release
  • Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director, writes on the important connection between soil health and clean water. (York Dispatch—PA)
  • Environmentalists in Maryland are alarmed at the considerable downward trend in enforcement of environmental laws. (Bay Journal)
  • For the third consecutive year, Baltimore's Inner Harbor posted failing grades in its water quality report card. (Baltimore Sun—MD)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

May 15

  • Norfolk, VA: The Blue Planet Forum is an annual, free environmental lecture series held in Hampton Roads. Its mission is to educate and engage the public on important environmental issues affecting Hampton Roads and the nation. In the next installment of this very popular series, the audience will be treated to presentations by an expert panel on the topic: Water, Water Everywhere: exploring how water inspires and influences us. The event is free, but space is limited, so registration is strongly encouraged. Click here to register!

May 16

  • Baltimore, MD: Cruise the Inner Harbor aboard CBF's 46-foot workboat the Snow Goose as we explore the complex and fascinating relationship between the urban environment and the Bay's natural ecosystem. CBF staff will demonstrate the importance of this port as an economic lifeline for the state of Maryland and help participants appreciate the life cycles and needs of the thousands of birds, fish, crabs, oysters, and other organisms which share these waters. Click here to register!

May 17

  • LaPlata, MD: Join CBF at acrucial public hearing on the future of Charles County. This is your opportunity to provide comment to the Board of County Commissioners on the planning board's recommended Comprehensive Plan, which does not adequately protect the Mattawoman Creek, clean water, healthy forests, or quality of life in the county. Click here to register!

May 20

  • Shady Side, MD: Break a sweat and help Save the Bay—join CBF in cleaning the "homes" of the next generation of Chesapeake Bay oysters! Help restore the Chesapeake's native oyster population by cleaning oyster shells by shaking off the dirt and debris so baby oysters can successfully grow on them. This "shell shaking" event is a bit of a workout but a fun, hands-on experience. With lifting involved, it is not recommended for individuals with bad backs or other health concerns. A tour of our restoration center will follow the shell shaking. Click here to register!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate

During Sweltering Summer, Brock Center's Electric Bill Comes in at Just $17 a Month

Photo by Chris Gorri/CBF Staff.

If you got sticker shock from your electric bill this summer, you'll want to check out the Brock Environmental Center's latest statement from Dominion Power. CBF's electric bills for the building have come in at only $17.19 a month the past few months. What's more, that's all administrative fees. Since April, the Brock Center's solar panels and wind turbines have actually produced nearly twice as much energy than was used. That extra electricity is then returned to the grid to help power other houses.

So how do you keep a 10,500-square-foot building running for just 57 cents a day in Virginia Beach's summer heat? In addition to taking advantage of abundant solar and wind energy, the building uses natural ventilation to catch refreshing morning and evening breezes. A geothermal cooling system utilizes the earth's constant 56 degree temperature.

Reducing energy and water needs is also a big part of it. Natural sunlight illuminates the space, while strategic summer shading prevents the sun from heating up the building. Super-efficient insulation makes sure it stays refreshing indoors even during sweltering weather outside. Through it all, temperatures in the office hover around a comfortable 76 degrees during the warmer months.

It's all promising as the Brock Center nears the halfway mark in its effort to earn Living Building Challenge certification from the International Living Future Institute, a rare and demanding designation achieved by only a handful of buildings around the world. CBF started the clock on April 1 for the challenge, in which over the course of one year the center must produce at least as much energy as it uses and get all of its water from collected rain, among other strict requirements.

One of the most environmentally smart buildings in the world, the combination of renewable energy and extreme energy efficiency at the Brock Center is a model for how buildings can have a near-zero carbon footprint. Wouldn't it be great if all offices could be powered for well under a dollar a day?

—Kenny Fletcher, CBF's Virginia Communications Coordinator

Click here to check out how much energy the Brock Center is consuming in real time at the building's dashboard.

A copy of a recent energy bill from the Brock Environmental Center.

This Week in the Watershed


Members of the Chesapeake Executive Council and other leaders. Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff.

Recently, EPA, CBF, and the Choose Clean Water Coalition have found that while some progress is being made, Bay-wide efforts to reduce pollution are falling short of 2017 milestone goals. 

One of the central tenets that sets the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint apart from past Bay restoration commitments is having two-year milestone assessments. These assessments are not only to hold states accountable for progress but also to reassess what improvements can be made moving forward.

Given all this, while there were some encouraging remarks at Thursday's Chesapeake Bay Executive Council  it will be the actions taken by the states and federal partners that truly save the Bay. And so, we will continue to raise our voices for pollution reduction, holding our leaders accountable for the health of the Bay and our local rivers and streams.

This Week in the Watershed: Executive Council, Urban Trees, and Principals Outside

  • The Chesapeake Bay Executive Council met Thursday at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. This gathering of influential public officials representing Bay-state and federal stakeholders highlighted how the Bay is getting cleaner, but failed to address how we are dangerously behind schedule. (WAMU) Also check out the CBF Twitter feed where we live tweeted the meeting.
  • Recent reports show that oysters are doing well in the Severn River. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • Water quality and keeping cattle out of streams are deeply interwoven. This best management practice is being encouraged throughout the watershed. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • Here at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, we love trees. Beautifying neighborhoods, reducing pollution, and improving water quality, they're simply awesome. It's, therefore, no surprise that we're big fans of the tree love going on in Fredericksburg, VA. (Bay Journal)
  • Immersing school principals and administrators in outdoor environmental education programs is a great way to encourage environmental literacy in our schools. Administrators from Manchester Valley High School in Maryland recently had a great trip to CBF's education facility on Port Isobel. (Carroll County Times—MD)
  • Way to go, Frederick County, MD, for investing heavily in restoration efforts to reduce stormwater runoff. This investment will likely pay for itself and then some. (Frederick News-Post—MD)
  • Former Governor of Pennsylvania Dick Thornburgh eloquently explains the history of Chesapeake Bay restoration and convincingly argues for clear, specific, and measurable restoration goals. (Philly.com—PA)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

July 25

  • Folks on the Eastern Shore of Virginia are invited to learn about native plant landscaping at an exciting, educational event: "Trees, Bees, and Clean Water: Connecting the Dots." Experts will help attendees learn about the pollinating power of birds, butterflies, and bees, how to landscape to reduce polluted runoff, how to build a rain garden, and more. Space is limited, and registration is required. E-mail Tatum Ford at tford@cbf.org to reserve your spot!
  • Get an in-depth education of one of the most energy-efficient and environmentally friendly buildings in the world by getting a tour of CBF's Brock Environmental Center. Reservations are strongly recommended but not required. Call 757-622-1964 or e-mail BrockCenterGreenTours@cbf.org.

July 28

  • In preparation for stormwater medallion placement on July 30, CBF will be distributing door hangers with information about how citizens can reduce their impact on the waterways! E-mail Blair Blanchette at bblanchette@cbf.org or call 804-780-1392 to participate.

July 30

  • Join CBF as we place stormwater medallions in Oak Grove, Richmond. This unique volunteer opportunity allows you to have a positive impact on the Bay while also using a caulk gun! E-mail Blair Blanchette at bblanchette@cbf.org or call 804-780-1392 to participate.

July 31

  • Another opportunity to get a tour of the Brock Environmental Center. Reservations are strongly recommended but not required. Call 757-622-1964 or e-mail BrockCenterGreenTours@cbf.org.

August 1

  • This annual benefit for CBF draws kayakers, paddle boarders and all kinds of other paddlers—from novice to advanced—from far and wide for a race at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. CBF is looking for five to six volunteers to assist with event/race logistics and share information with the attendees. To volunteer, please e-mail or call Tanner Council at tcouncil@cbf.org or 757-622-1964. To join the races, click here!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate

Our New Brock Center in VA Goes off Power, Water Grids

Brock-InfographicThe following first appeared in the Bay Journal.

Last November, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation "unplugged" the new Brock Environmental Center from the power grid as part of the center's grand opening festivities in Virginia Beach. It was admittedly a purely symbolic gesture—the building remains hooked to the local electric utility.

But we wanted to declare to the world our intention to operate this cutting-edge center using only onsite renewable energy.

Last month, the CBF retired the symbolic plug and actually began walking the talk at the Brock Center. On April 1, we cranked the center's electric meter back to zero and began a yearlong effort to demonstrate that the building's solar panels and wind turbines can produce all of the electricity the building needs for a solid year.

Certainly, when it is cloudy, with no wind, the center likely will have to draw some power from the local grid. But on sunny, breezy days—and there are lots of them in Virginia Beach—the center will produce more electricity than it needs, sending the excess juice back to the grid. The goal at the end of the 12 months: net-zero energy.

We're also aiming to make the Brock Center net-zero water. The center employs two 1,700-gallon cisterns to collect rainwater. It is cleaned and stored on site for all of the center's drinking, washing and cooking needs. The Brock Center is the first commercial building in the continental United States permitted to treat and use rainwater as drinking water. As with energy, the foundations' goal is to demonstrate that we can be water-independent.

"We started the yearlong clock at 12:01 a.m. April 1," said CBF's Hampton Roads Director Christy Everett. "We intend to operate the center for the next 12 months using no more power than what the sun and wind generate and no more water than what rain provides. That will be an enormous challenge, and we know we may encounter some glitches along the way. We're attempting something that few others have ever done."

I invite everyone to join the CBF on this journey to zero impact. You can follow the progress of the first year challenge by visiting the Brock Center's online "dashboard," a real-time gauge of the building's energy and water use. The dashboard can be seen at cbf.org/brockdashboard.

What the dashboard won't show you are the many other features that make me believe the Brock Center is the greenest and smartest building in the world. Some of them include:

  • No-flush, composting toilets eliminate water use and produce no sewage waste.
  • Gray water from the center's sinks and showers goes into bio-retention gardens to be absorbed by native plants.
  • Rain gardens, sandy soils and permeable surfaces produce zero polluted runoff, eliminating harm to the nearby Lynnhaven River and Chesapeake Bay.
  • Geothermal wells, southern exposures, and windows and doors open wide to catch Bay breezes and help heat and cool the building naturally.
  • Super-efficient insulation and energy-conserving lights and appliances help the Brock Center use 80 percent less energy than office buildings of comparable size.
  • Toxic-free building materials result in a clean, healthy work environment.

Finally, we have used recycled and salvaged materials throughout the center. The wood from old bleachers, the flooring from an old school gym, the sinks and cabinets and desktops retrieved from office buildings slated for demolition are all given a new lease on life rather than being thrown away, wherever "away" is.

We want the Brock Center to achieve Living Building Challenge certification, a set of super-tough environmental criteria developed by the International Living Future Institute. Only a handful of buildings around the world have successfully done so.

We also have a larger, more visionary goal for the Brock Environmental Center. We hope the center can become an international model for sustainable building, a practical demonstration that we can live and work in true harmony with nature. Zero environmental impact is possible, and it's doable, right now, even in especially sensitive regions like the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

If we can demonstrate that buildings like the Brock Environmental Center can help save the Bay, perhaps others around the nation and the world will also be inspired to take the Living Building Challenge . . . and help save the planet.

—Will Baker, CBF President

Although the Brock Center is open for business, your support is critically needed to cover final construction costs and to help jump-start our environmental education and community outreach programs. Right now, The Cabell Foundation is matching 50 percent of every dollar donated toward the Brock Environmental Center. Please make a gift today and be a part of this remarkable project!

On the Front Lines of Mitigating Climate Change

The following first appeared on EcoWatch.

Brock_1200CBF's Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach. Photo by Roberto Westbrook.

Sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay region of Virginia are rising at a rate more than twice the global average. Since 1960, the area has experienced a 325 percent increase in "nuisance flooding" that disrupts business by closing roads and flooding parking lots and putting undue stress on infrastructure, like storm water drains, roads and sidewalks.

Some of this recurrent flooding is due to the land settling, the geologic results of a massive meteor strike here 35 million years ago. But there's little doubt the Virginia coast is also on the frontline of climate change, surging waters and more intense storms. It's no longer a question if and when the sea will rise here; the challenge is how much and how to adapt.

The Chesapeake Bay is our nation's largest estuary and home to more than 3,600 species of plants and animals, including thousands of acres of valuable coastal marsh and wetlands. Scientists anticipate Virginia will lose 50-80 percent of these wetlands in the next 50 years at the current rate of sea-level rise. And it isn't just the beautiful vistas we'll lose, but everything else these wetlands provide—protection from erosion near waterfront property; flood control; filtration of runoff and removal of pollutants; and the food, water and habitat for the critters that call the wetlands home.

The busy Hampton Roads area is the second most populated region at risk from sea level and related storm damage after New Orleans. And it is home to the world's largest Navy base. During a speech at the College of William and Mary, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) remarked that in another 25 years, the main road into Naval Station Norfolk, will be under water three hours a day.

Thus, climate change not only threatens our way of life, but it's threatening our national security as well. We need to mitigate its effects with short- and long-term strategies. We need to adapt to these changes by developing environmentally smart infrastructure that not only allows us to live in a rapidly changing world, but minimizes climate changing pollution for the future.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's new Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach is designed to do just that by minimizing CO2 emissions, limiting environmental impacts and adapting to rising sea-levels. The center is built on pilings more than 14 feet above sea level and 200 feet back from the river's edge (double the 100 feet clearance required by Virginia law), safe from both rising sea levels and storm surges.

The Brock Environmental Center also utilizes existing technology and common-sense design features to meet the Living Building Challenge, the highest standard for environmentally smart building. Two small wind turbines and roof top solar arrays generate enough energy to power the building. Geothermal wells, windows that open and close according to temperature needs, super-insulated walls and floors, and natural ventilation features—heat and cool the building.

And rain cisterns and a filtering system make the Brock Environmental Center the first project in the U.S. to receive a commercial permit for drinking filtered/treated rainwater in accordance with the federal drinking water requirements. In fact, the center uses rainwater for all its water needs.     
The builders also extensively used recycled and salvaged materials to reduce waste, and they excluded more than 300 hundred toxic materials typically found in common building materials.

Finally, the building was designed to prevent site disturbance—there is no parking lot on site, and it is landscaped in native trees, shrubs, and grasses to restore years of displaced wetlands. The natural landscaping allows flood waters to rise, settle and recede naturally without harm to the center or nearby neighborhoods.

Now open for business, the Brock Environmental Center allows the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to continue its groundbreaking work saving the Bay in Hampton Roads while providing a national model for smart building, energy efficiency, and climate-change adaptability.

—Christy Everett, CBF Hampton Roads Director

Click here to watch a drone fly through of the completed Brock Environmental Center!

The Best of 2014



First there was this: Toxic blue-green algae in Lake Erie shut down the drinking water supply in Toledo, Ohio; the American Farm Bureau Federation along with other special interest lobbyists and 21 state attorneys general declared war on the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint; the Bay's blue crabs and rockfish faced especially trying times due to poor water quality and diminished habitat.

But then there was this: Oxford, Maryland and other communities rolled up their sleeves and worked together to tackle harmful polluted runoff problems; hard-working farmers across the watershed improved water quality and efficiency on their farms; our new Brock Environmental Center—one of the world's most environmentally smart buildings—opened its doors in Virginia Beach.

The year 2014 is not an easy one to explain. It was full of highs and lows, good news and bad.

6a00d8341bfb5353ef0168eab74332970cOn this New Year's Eve as we reflect on the challenges, lessons learned, and successes from this complex year, we decided to take a look back and see what you, the reader, valued and cared about most. So without further ado, these are the top 10 most popular posts from 2014 . . .

1. "Blue News": CBF's Director of Fisheries Bill Goldsborough discussed the troubling news from the annual blue crab winter dredge survey, and what we can do to improve numbers of the Bay's iconic critter.   

2. "Rockfish: Down But Not Out": Rockfish numbers, too, were down in 2014, but in this post we discussed why we're not losing hope just yet. 

3. "Could It Happen Here?": CBF's Senior Water Quality Scientist Beth McGee examined the blue-green algae crisis in Lake Erie that shut down local drinking water supplies this summer. And she asked the question we'd all been wondering: Could something like that happen here to the 17 million of us living in the Bay watershed.  

4. "Farmer Success Stories": Hard-working farmers told their stories of how they implemented Best Management Practices that not only improved productivity and efficiency on their farms, but also local water quality. 

6a00d8341bfb5353ef01a73d703f37970d-800wi5.  "21 States, 8 Counties Join Farm Bureau Challenge to Bay TMDL": In an outrageous attack on clean water restoration, 21 state attorneys general (most from outside the Bay watershed) joined with the American Farm Bureau Federation, The Fertilizer Institute, and other special interests and filed a surprise challenge to the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. 

6.  "Oxford, Maryland Leading the Way to a Cleaner Bay": Small communities like Oxford took it upon themselves to actually do something about the polluted runoff in their own backyard. 

7. "Anne Arundel County Will Benefit From Stormwater Fee"CBF's Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost explained the importance of a polluted runoff fee and how it will improve the environment, economy, and health of communities like Anne Arundel County. 

8. "Imagine a Building as Efficient and Beneficial as a Tree"After years of planning and months of construction, the Brock Environmental Center—an international model for energy- and water-efficiency—came to life in November. 

6a00d8341bfb5353ef01b8d08f5d84970c-800wi9. "Be the Solution": Our Maryland office wouldn't play the blame game. It discussed how we all have a role to play in implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Whether we're in Western Maryland, the Lower Eastern Shore, or everywhere in between, we can be a part of the solution in battling polluted runoff.   

10. "Smith Island as I Recall it 35 Years Ago": In honor of our Smith Island Education Program turning 35 this year, the program's first educator and founder Bill Goldsborough reflected on the early days, inspiring and transforming students in this unique island community.

Thank you for being curious, inquisitive readers of our CBF Blog. We strive to keep you updated on important clean water issues and hope we have accomplished just that throughout 2014.

Now we look forward to 2015 as a time to work even more vigilantly for healthy rivers, clean streams, and a restored Chesapeake Bay. Thank you for helping us do that. And keep reading . . . 

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

Rethinking Coastal Development in Virginia Beach

The following first appeared in The Daily Caller late last week.

The Brock Environmental Center at Pleasure House Point in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Photo by Deanna Brusa/CBF Staff

Intense storms, winds, and waves increasingly threaten waterfront homes up and down the East Coast. But many communities refuse to recognize the risk. Instead, they are kicking the can down the road and leaving the problem to our children and grandchildren.

Even the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) seems to be looking the other way. NBC News reported earlier this year that FEMA has remapped more than 500 waterfront properties from the Gulf of Alaska to Bar Harbor, Maine, "removing" them (at least on redrawn maps) from the highest-risk flood zone. That saves the owners as much as 97 percent on premiums they pay into the financially strained National Flood Insurance Program.

This remapping amounts to expanding the subsidy to the rich for building expensive waterfront properties or luxury condominiums in environmentally fragile areas. This is one issue where environmentalists and conservatives who favor small government should agree – government subsidized flood insurance wastes taxpayer's dollars and harms local ecosystems.

Such policies seem perverse. Sometimes it takes local citizens and community groups to take matters into their own hands and find smarter, more commonsense solutions to coastal overdevelopment. Pleasure House Point in Virginia Beach, Va., could be a model for doing just that.

Pleasure House Point is a 118-acre peninsula of beach, marsh, and trees on the Lynnhaven River near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. One of the last undeveloped waterfront parcels in Virginia Beach, developers purchased it years ago and planned to build "Indigo Dunes," a massive development of more than 1,000 new high-rise condos and townhouses, despite the fierce opposition of nearby neighborhoods and the City of Virginia Beach. By 2008, Indigo Dunes and its thousands of new waterfront residents, cars, and streets seemed only a matter of time.

Then the housing market collapsed, the Great Recession loomed, and building plans came to a halt. Bankers eventually foreclosed on the property and took ownership of Pleasure House Point. "Indigo Dunes" was dead, but there was a silver lining.

Seizing the opportunity, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation partnered with the City of Virginia Beach, the Trust for Public Land, and the local community in a plan to buy Pleasure House Point. This public-private coalition rallied, raised $13 million and purchased the site from the bank in 2012, preserving it for passive recreation and education.

The City of Virginia Beach quickly designated Pleasure House Point as a natural area, creating a public green space of inlets, beaches, forests, and trails that today teems with wildlife. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation bought a small corner of the property, a sandy upland of old dredge spoils, and created the Brock Environmental Center. When this innovative environmental education and community center opens in November, it will be one of the most environmentally smart buildings on the planet. Our hope is that the Brock Center will be a model of energy independence, climate change resiliency, and super-low environmental impact. In fact, it's designed to complement the surrounding environment, not harm or fight it.

—Christy Everett, CBF's Hampton Roads Director

Imagine a Building as Efficient and Beneficial as a Tree

10734192_10152730427875943_234172962746341259_nPhoto by Chris Gorri/CBF Staff.

Imagine a building as efficient and beneficial as a tree.

Imagine saving one of the last natural areas in Virginia Beach from development.

Imagine producing all the power you need from nature.

Imagine eliminating the nastiest chemicals from where you work.

Imagine drinking rain water.

You don't need to imagine anymore. We've done it.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Brock Environmental Center, now open at Pleasure House Point in Virginia Beach, is one of the most energy efficient, environmentally smart buildings in the world.

CBF's President Will Baker leads the ceremonial "unplugging" symbolizing the opening of the Brock Environmental Center. Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff.

With its solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal wells, rain cisterns, waterless toilets, and natural landscaping, the center is an international model for energy- and water-efficiency. Elevated 14 feet above sea level, it is also a prototype for coping with climate change in a region increasingly prone to flooding.

"We hoped to raise the bar for environmentally smart buildings when we envisioned the Brock Environmental Center," CBF President Will Baker said. "And I think we've done that with this remarkable building."

Named after Virginia Beach philanthropists Joan and Macon Brock, the Brock Center houses CBF's Hampton Roads staff and that of Lynnhaven River NOW, a Virginia Beach conservation group. It also provides meeting space for community discussions and serves as headquarters for CBF's award-winning environmental education programs for Hampton Roads teachers and students.

Rooftop solar panels and wind turbines generate all power for the center, and even return surplus clean, renewable energy back to the grid. The center uses rainwater for all its water needs, including drinking water. It is believed to be the first commercial-scale building in the continental United States to do so.

Any excess rain water and "gray water" flow into nearby rain gardens of native grasses, flowers, and shrubs. Even the center's bathrooms use waterless toilets that compost waste in waterproof bins until the odorless, harmless compost can be spread on the grounds.

Anticipating more regional flooding, the center is raised 14 feet above sea level. There are no paved parking lots to interfere with natural drainage; staff and visitors park on nearby streets and walk to the center on a natural path through the woods. Any code-required handicap and emergency access areas use permeable pavers that let water soak in rather than run off. More importantly, the surrounding sand, shrubs, and trees remain largely untouched, allowing flood waters to spread and recede naturally without harm to the center or nearby neighborhoods.

Today's opening of the Brock Environmental Center concludes a successful community effort to save the 118-acre Pleasure House Point tract from development. As recently as 2008, developers intended to build more than 1,100 new high-rise condos and townhouses on the property. The collapse of the housing market in 2009, however, led bankers to foreclose on the property. A community partnership with CBF, the City of Virginia Beach, and the Trust for Public Land purchased the land from the bank in 2012, preserving it for open space and environmental education.

Welcome to the Brock Environmental Center. Come explore and learn. We think you will be amazed. We know you will be inspired.

Chuck Epes, CBF's Assistant Director of Media Relations

Partnering with CBF to create the Brock Environmental Center were SmithGroupJJR, Hourigan Construction, Skanska, and WPL Site Design all partnered with CBF to create the Brock Environmental Center.  

Dumpster Diving to Save the Bay

The following first appeared in the Huffington Post.

A collection of salvaged materials were used in the construction of the Brock Environmental Center.

Imagine taking the world's largest cruise ship and dumping it into a landfill 700 times a year.

Every year.

That's how much trash new building construction and demolition produces in the U.S. alone - that's approximately 160 million tons of sometimes toxic trash.

When we think about building for the future and what kind of legacy we're going to leave for our children, we need to revisit simple solutions like reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Twelve months ago, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation broke ground on the Brock Environmental Center—what will be one of the most energy efficient and environmentally smart education and community centers in the world. When completed later this fall, the center intends to meet the strictest LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge environmental standards.

When people think about cutting-edge architecture and design, they often think about high-costs and space-age technology. But a key component of the Living Building Challenge is to use as many recycled and reusable materials as possible to save natural resources, energy, and costs.

So for past year and a half, we've been dumpster diving to salvage and use materials for the Brock Center that otherwise would go to the local landfill. Here are just a few of the materials we've been able to reclaim along with the help from our builder and the Hampton Roads community: used sinks, doors, mirrors, counters, and cabinets from office buildings about to be remodeled or torn down were salvaged and will find new life in the Brock Center; old wooden school bleachers were saved and used as trim for the new center's doors and windows; maple flooring in the gymnasium of a former elementary school was removed, reinstalled, and resurfaced as new flooring in the center; used bike racks came from a local parks department; hundreds of champagne corks were collected for use as knobs and drawer-pulls in the center; student art tables will be used as counter tops; and old wooden paneling will be made into cabinets.

Our most unusual find, however, was the "sinke2014-10-10-Picture2-thumbr cypress" logs recovered from rivers and bayous in the Deep South. The logs are from first-growth cypress trees cut down more than a century ago but lost when they fell off barges and sank on the way to Southern sawmills.

The recently recovered logs—some of which are 500 to 1,000 years old—have been milled and used for the exterior siding of our new building. Instead of lying submerged forever in the mud of a Louisiana river bottom, these ancient cypress logs provide beautiful, natural, chemical-free weather-proofing for the new building.

The biggest lesson I've learned from all of this work is that you don't need new materials to build a new building. Twenty-first century buildings should use as much salvaged materials as possible in order to reduce waste and pollution and ensure that we can pass along a healthy planet to our children and grandchildren.

Our salvage and recycling efforts at the Brock Center, along with other innovative, cutting-edge technologies (solar and wind power, rainwater reuse, composting toilets, and natural lighting and ventilation, to name a few) reflect a deliberate effort to live our "Save the Bay" mission. The goal of the Brock Environmental Center is to integrate and support the surrounding Chesapeake Bay environment.

By engaging the greater community in our recycling efforts for the Brock Environmental Center, we're also helping educate citizens on smarter ways to build, live, and work near sensitive ecosystems like the Chesapeake Bay. The Brock Environmental Center not only raises the bar on smart buildings; it can serve as a replicable model for raising community awareness in localities around the country and the world.

—Christy Everett, CBF's Hampton Roads Director