The nature centers are design to be fully functional, sustainable and energy efficient while minimizing the disturbance to the natural landscape and maximizing the design compatibility with the natural surroundings. Several other factors taken into consideration included the preservation of wildlife corridors, the need to avoid disturbing natural undeveloped land, and the possibility of utilizing a site which already had been previously disturbed.
Maricopa County's Parks and Recreation Department constructed its first green-friendly nature center at Estrella Mountain Regional Park. This nature center has served as the prototype for additional centers throughout the park system. Before the department began designing the prototype, staff sought Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification criteria from the U.S. Green Building Council to gain a better understanding as to which types of materials and facilities would work best to preserve the natural environment of the park. Some of the green features include:
- A garden roof system that contains native plant species, and enables the facility to visually integrate into its surroundings. The desert roof adds a significant isolative value, retains rainwater, and reduces storm water runoff on the site.
- A central skylight that is fully glazed for daylight admission; yet is situated behind deep shade canopies to discourage direct sun in the summer. In the winter, when the low sun angle hits it, the skylight absorbs and reradiates the heat into the space.
The nature center's amphitheaters, patios and classrooms may be rented for corporate events, scout meetings, family gatherings, and a myriad of other functions. For information about capacity levels and fees, contact the park supervisor directly.