If you've made it to Vegas, but missed the impressive sites of Red Rock Canyon directly to the west, you missed out on a beautiful experience. The amazing national conservation area plays host to a variety of desert flora and fauna, with the most spectacular red rock canyon walls serving as a backdrop. To better preserve and protect the canyon, the conservation area hired the Tucson-based firm Line and Space to design a new visitor center that would respect and respond to the surrounding environment. A number of resource conserving strategies were incorporated, along with energy efficiency measures to minimize impact and maximize visitor experience with the landscape.
Located just 20 minutes outside the bright and busy Las Vegas Strip, this serene desert landscape is known as a destination for rock climbers and for its beautiful red stained landscape. The new visitor arrival building provides 38,500 sq feet of outdoor exhibits, a remodel of the existing visitor center building to house administrative functions, and a new Visitor Contact/Fee Station. The landscape beyond is artfully incorporated into both the indoor and outdoor exhibits, enticing visitors to go further and explore. All the exhibits aim to educate on environmental topics pertaining to the surrounding ecosystem, how the building works to conserve resources, and how to be a good environmental steward.
As visitors arrive, they enter under the “Big Hat”, which is a large overhanging roof that creates an intermediate thermal transition zone between the outside and the conditioned interior spaces. This roof also harvests rainwater for use in landscape irrigation and interpretive exhibits. High-efficiency mechanical systems, evaporative coolers, daylighting, high efficiency lighting and the use of shade devices all help to minimize energy use. Shade is a critical element in any desert architecture in order to minimize and mitigate solar heat gain and encourage natural ventilation.
Meanwhile solar water heating, a 60 kW photovoltaic system, and transpired solar wall system all take advantage of free energy from the sun. Outdoor zones are sheltered and shaded to create climatic comfort in order to minimize indoor conditioned space. The new facility was completed in 2010 and has since earned LEED Gold certification, which is a fitting tribute to the surrounding vistas.
Images ©Robert Reck, Henry Tom, Johnny Birkinbine, and Line and Space