This month, the first net-zero energy and LEED Platinum-designated building in Orange County will open at the ENC Nature Preschool, a school designed to educate children, engage parents, and provide a research forum for early childhood and environmental education.
Housed adjacent to the Environmental Nature Center, the preschool is one of only three preschools in the world that's LEED Platinum Certified, the highest designation that a building can receive for sustainability and energy efficiency. The Newport Beach-based school is also planning to participate in the Living Building Challenge.
The Living Building Challenge is, "a green building certification program and sustainable design framework that visualizes the ideal for the built environment.” The challenge recognizes buildings that are regenerative and self-sufficient, honoring resource limits and producing more energy than they use.
And, in addition to it being extremely environmentally-friendly, the building’s architecture is really darn cool. A unique butterfly roof serves as a compelling focal point and energy source over the mostly wood-and-glass building that features sleek stacked horizontal panels of wood.
The building features mid-century architecture, appropriately blending into the surrounding landscape while quietly introducing itself to passersby through a large wood-engraved logo featuring a playful, multicolored leaf. Inside, its design maximizes natural light and fresh air and minimizes the use of electricity through walls of oversized glass that look as great as they function.
Given the building’s commitment to sustainability, it’s no surprise that the preschool focuses heavily on developing childrens' appreciation for nature through play-based, hands-on learning activities that primarily take place outside.
Experienced preschool teachers and naturalists work together to develop programming that combines traditional learning methods with nature-infused activities that encourage creativity, self-confidence, and an awareness of the interconnectedness of all living things. Children leave the program empowered with greater self-confidence and independence and a stronger connection to the environment around them.
ENC Nature Preschool opens to children tomorrow, September 12th. You can find more information about the school by watching the video below, and you can learn how to become involved here.