The DuPont Environmental Education Center is part of a large-scale effort to restore the marshlands along the Christina River in Wilmington, Delaware. Like many other environmental centers around the US, the DuPont EEC is both an exemplary green building and a restorative project for the surrounding area. Located at the end of Wilmington's river walk, the tall rust-colored building acts like a sentinel watching over the Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge. The center was designed by Baltimore-based GWWO Architects and has won a number of architecture awards since its completion in 2009.
The Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge is located at the southernmost edge of Wilmington’s downtown area. Situated on the edge of the refuge and at the terminus of the Riverwalk is the DuPont EEC. The four-story, 13,500-square-foot facility includes observation decks, a marsh laboratory, and a large meeting space with views of the marsh, the river and the city. The architecture weaves the urban environment and the historic industrial waterfront in with the natural environment. Constructed from naturally rusted Coreten steel, cast-in-place concrete, and Western Red Cedar, the center blends in with both the marsh as well as the adjacent railway and high-voltage power lines.
Visitors to the center approach the building via a 1/4-mile-long bridge over the train tracks, from which they can take in views of the marsh below without coming directly into contact with it. Surfaces and paving are all permeable to infiltrate marsh and rainwater, and all lighting in the parking lot is solar-powered. Eco-friendly and low-VOC materials, like 100% recycled kraft board are used in the exhibits along with energy-efficient LED rope lighting. Additionally, solar passive design and shade screens help reduce overheating inside.
“This facility and the 212-acre wildlife refuge that surrounds it are unique as features of an urban environment,” said Michael S. Purzycki, executive director of the Riverfront Development Corporation of Delaware (RDC), which owns the center. “We were fortunate to be able to restore this marsh after centuries of abuse and return it to its natural state as a viable habitat for more than 200 species of plants and animals.” The DuPont EEC is the recipient of the 2010 AIA Baltimore Grand Design Award, 2010 AIA Maryland Merit Award, 2010 AIA Delaware Honor Award, and the 2010 DE IFMA Green Building Award.