University of Calgary


May 31, 2011

Learning outside as well as in

By Jennifer Allford

The grounds at the front of the EEEL building feature geological formations called anticlines. Digital rendering by O2 Planning + DesignThe grounds at the front of the EEEL building feature geological formations called anticlines. Digital rendering by O2 Planning + DesignHundreds of people have signed up for tours of the nearly completed Energy Environment Experiential Learning (EEEL) building to see inside the most innovative building on campus, but everyone walking by may notice that the grounds outside are shaping up to be pretty interesting too.

“We’re trying to create a landscape that is sustainable, with features that are respectful of the environment such as storm water management and the use of native plants,” says Douglas Olson, the president of O2 Planning + Design Inc. “But we are also trying to create space that can be used for educational purposes.”

Take the geological formations that grace the south side of the building. Geology students may recognize them as anticlines, crested layers of rock where oil and natural gas are often found. “We accurately made the correct layers of rock that normally occur in an anticline, says Olson. “We sliced it and pulled it apart to provide an entry feature, or gateway, to the building.”

The idea is that people will do more than lean up against the rocks while chatting to their friends, but that “students in geology will actually use the stone that’s found in those anticlines as part of their curriculum.” Other stone features around the building represent different types of rock that can also help people with their studies.

On the north side of the building, a stylized esker, or ridge, will run the length of the building. “It’s almost a snake-like feature in front of the building and as it transitions from native grasses into stone, it becomes part of the building and runs underneath the bus shelter,” says Olsen.

The trees on the south side of Campus Drive are being planted in a large tree trench to help them keep growing for decades. “Tree pits generally are tree coffins,” says Olson. “But we’ve used the latest technology in structural peat continuous tree pits to ensure their survival.”

They’ve selected drought resistance plants, built rain gardens into the landscape as well as employed other sustainable storm water management techniques to help with irrigation.

The innovative landscaping around the EEEL building should be ready when the building opens its doors over the summer. “Most of the rocks are already placed, the tree pit is in and the plantings will be going in and finished up in the next few months,” says Olson.

“It should look pretty cool.”

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