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Placerita Canyon Nature Center soars ahead

Environment: New building is Los Angeles County’s first certifiably ‘green’ structure

Posted: March 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.

An American kestrel perches on a stand at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center on Monday. American kestrels are North America’s smallest falcons, and center visitors often mistake the them for blue jays, said Dave Stives, regional park animal keeper.

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Think of it as the Oscars of environmental design.

Santa Clarita Valley’s oldest, and now national award-winning, Placerita Canyon Nature Center and Natural Area takes center stage today at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting, where center officials are expected to receive one of the country’s highest certification for environmental design.

The 40-year-old, recently renovated building on Placerita Canyon Road in Newhall is the first building owned by Los Angeles County to garner a nationally recognized achievement for excellence in environmental renovations.

The certification is called the United States Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED. The award takes the shape of a 20-pound, beach ball-sized plaque to recipients eligible for accreditation on four levels: certified, silver, gold and platinum.

The local nature center scored a silver rating.

“We’re going to be the leader of this type of structure,” said Russell M. Kimura, the center’s regional superintendent. “All of the county’s nature centers will probably be mimicking what we’re doing here.”

Placerita Canyon Nature Center is now a model by which other old county buildings can be renovated, said Imee Perius, spokeswoman for the county Department of Parks and Recreation.

“We are very excited and very proud to receive this award,” she said. “Hopefully this is something we can do with our other buildings.”

Other old, county-owned buildings that might one day be considered for some Placerita-style renovation include the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden and the William D. Davies Memorial Building.

Kimura is today expected to join Parks and Recreation Director Russ Guiney and Hayden Sohm, deputy director of the department’s regional facilities, in receiving the certification plaque.

“We are so proud” that Placerita Canyon Nature Center and Natural Area is the first existing county building to be LEED-certified, Guiney said Monday.

“It is a testament to the Department of Parks and Recreation’s commitment to implementing creative and successful ways to embrace conservation and sustainability,” he said. “We look forward to keeping environmental responsibility at the forefront of our endeavors.”

The center underwent an extensive, 30-month-long makeover with new fire-retardant roofs, dual-pane windows, skylights and new accommodations for some of its animals.

Its 5,000 square feet of new building space features a new classroom and lab.

Other renovations include: a new roof at Walker Cabin; a new potable water system at Walker Ranch Campground; a pedestrian bridge with enhanced accessibility, as well as new energy and water conservation features such as energy-efficient air conditioning and cooling systems.

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