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State's 'greenest' facility now open

MOSS POINT — The Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) and Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) held the grand opening of the new Grand Bay Coastal Resources Center Dec. 7. The center is located at 6005 Bayou Heron Road in Moss Point.

The 20,000-square-foot facility, which serves as headquarters for the NERR, features a public interpretive area, office space, laboratories, classrooms and a dormitory. It is one of the “greenest” buildings in Mississippi and demonstrates low-impact development design and construction technologies, which create a healthy environment for staff and visitors, reduces operational costs and ultimately demonstrates a commitment to the environment.

“We wanted a building that provides a healthy work environment for staff and visitors, with reduced operational cost and a commitment to the environment and the future,” said NERR manager David Ruple. “Since our job includes stewardship, we felt it was important for us to set a good example by aiming for sustainability in both design and function.”

The center’s architects designed the facility to meet the “gold” standard for certification as a LEED building by the U.S. Green Building Council. The design utilized a variety of concepts to meet the challenges of “building green,” including restored landscape, native vegetation, reduced water consumption, north-south building orientation, use of daylighting and other energy-saving strategies, low-emission building materials, pervious concrete, stormwater management, innovative wastewater reduction, optimization of energy performance systems, construction waste management, recycled content of construction materials, controllability of mechanical systems, Green Guard-certified furniture and rainwater collection cisterns.

The designers also worked with the Mississippi Forestry Commission and the National Wildlife Refuge to include several “firewise” features in the construction of the center and the landscaping. Firewise is a program developed to enable homeowners to live compatibly with nature, using elements of landscaping and building construction to reduce the threats of wildfire. Firewise features include fire-managed landscape, fuel reduction, control of invasive plants, fire break around the facility, metal roof, metal foundation, fire protection system, retention ponds, native vegetation, drought-resistant vegetation and mechanical clearing.

NOAA provided $6.5 million of the $9 million cost of the facilities planning, furnishings and building construction. The facility is a state-owned building, constructed on National Wildlife Refuge property and represents an excellent example of a working partnership between U.S. Department of Interior and U.S. Department of Commerce programs.

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