The Kalamazoo Nature Center Camp in Michigan is dedicated to helping kids grow, learn and explore nature, and their newly updated facilities help to reinforce that worthy mission. An old timber barn that used to house animals was recently repurposed into the camp's main activity hall at the heart of the campus. All the updates, including the barn's adaptive reuse, were master planned by the Ann Arbor office of Lord, Aeck & Sargent, who sought to minimize energy use and build with reclaimed materials in order to promote sustainability and set an example for the kids.
Taking advantage of the existing barn on the camp’s site, Lord, Aeck & Sargent, in cooperation with local architect Byce & Associates, rehabilitated the structure into Kalamazoo Nature Center Camp’s main building, which contains administrative offices, a catering kitchen, bathrooms, storage, meeting rooms, and an art studio/ecology lab. The 5,000 sq ft center was renovated and updated to accommodate the numerous programs, which allow both indoor and outdoor activities. New rooms and a porch were added to the upper level and finished with low maintenance recycled wood and cement boards.
“Since KNC Camp’s purpose is to inspire people, and especially kids to care for the environment through experiences that lead them to understand their connection to the natural world, our design for the existing barn rehabilitation and the additions, incorporates a host of green products and strategies,” said Jim Nicolow, a principal and the director of sustainability at architecture and planning firm Lord, Aeck & Sargent. “Some of these include natural cross-ventilation, daylighting, radiant heating and the use of recycled and local natural materials.”
The animal barn’s adaptive reuse into the camp’s activity center is just one of the many projects undertaken to update the facilities. The camp’s makeover also included the construction of an outdoor amphitheater and stage, a group activity pavilion, a natural playground for free play that also features a wooden water tower, composting garden, a unique 250-foot-long Slip ‘N Slide, changing areas, windmill, low ropes course, archery range, and a trail network. During fall, winter and spring months, the camp is used for a variety of educational programs suitable for both children and adults.
Images © Curt Clayton