New Rice Creek Field Station helps set example in sustainability

SUNY Oswego’s renewed Rice Creek Field Station, set among nearly 400 forever-wild acres south of campus, showcases its commitment to the natural world, utilizing such features as solar power, a state-of-the-art heating-cooling system, green construction materials and rain gardens to demonstrate conservation in practice.

Rice Creek Field Station windows reflect surrounding nature“We want to be a good example for the community, to show that it is possible to do things in a sustainable way,” said Lucina Hernandez, biological sciences faculty member and director of Rice Creek.

Rooftop photovoltaic solar panels—the solar array is about the same size as the one to rise soon atop the college’s new Richard S. Shineman Center for Science, Engineering and Innovation—will supply an estimated 40 percent of the power the 7,700-square-foot building needs.

Rice Creek’s high-efficiency, variable-volume-refrigerant system enables heating and cooling to go on in different parts of the building simultaneously. Super-insulated foam and high-performance windows help reduce energy consumption by about 30 percent compared with buildings of standard consumption.

With parking at a premium, at only nine spaces adjacent to the new field station, encouraging alternative means of transportation comes naturally to Rice Creek as well.

“There are few parking spaces, and that was not by chance,” Hernandez said. “We need people to realistically think about saving energy.”

Hernandez pointed out that a Centro shuttle delivers students to Rice Creek’s doorstep five days a week. The field station also encourages visitors to carpool and bicycle.

Retaining rainwater

SUNY Oswego chemistry faculty member Casey Raymond, who worked closely with Facilities Design and Construction coordinator Allen Bradberry on Rice Creek and the Shineman Center, pointed to bio-retention landscaped swales adjacent to the new headquarters as an example of concern for nearby wetlands.

“They help with storm-water management, allowing rain to run off the building, percolate among the swales’ hardy plants and naturally filter into the groundwater” instead of flowing directly into the pond, Raymond said.

Hernandez said several faculty members have enthusiastically embraced the new $5.5 million field station and its surroundings, holding classes this semester either in the building or on the grounds in plant, wetlands and waterfowl ecology, ichthyology (fish-related zoology) and behavioral biology, as well as field research projects.

Inside the field station, a terra cotta lattice shades the two large and one small research laboratories from the sun, while energy-efficient windows and shades keep out heat and allow in light, decreasing the need for powered lighting.

“With the new building here, professors know we are very accessible,” Hernandez said. “The students see the advantages to coming here. More students want to take classes here.”

Diann Jackson, the field station’s assistant director coordinating educational programming, said the renewed field station opens up new interdisciplinary potential. For example, she is working with technology education to start a sustainability project for science and technology students modernizing the design and structure of Rice Creek’s compost bin.

Rice Creek Field Station resumed its naturalists’ public programming on Saturday, Sept. 7, and plans to announce more programs for the community, with a new emphasis on sharing faculty and student research and techniques with the public.

“We are not isolated here,” Hernandez said. “We do science for the service of the public.”

Rice Creek Field Station will host an open house with tours and demonstrations for campus and community members from noon to 7 p.m. on Sept. 30. The formal celebration is set for 3 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 3.

PHOTO CAPTION: Green grace—SUNY Oswego’s new Rice Creek Field Station, off Thompson Road south of campus, pays homage to its natural surroundings as the building itself joins the scene with an abundance of environmentally sensitive features, from the state-of-the-art windows to a variable-refrigerant heating and cooling system, to name two. (Image by Jeffrey Newell, graduate assistant, SUNY Oswego Sustainability Office)

(Posted: Sep 11, 2013)

Tags: sustainability, rice creek field station, rice creek