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Tyner Interpretive Center and Kent Fuller Air Station Prairie

Landscape Performance Benefits

Environmental

  • Retains 100% of on-site stormwater runoff for more than a 100-year, 24-hour storm.
  • Increased ecological quality as demonstrated by an increase in Floristic Quality Index (FQI) from 44.7 in 1996 to 62.8 in 2014. An FQI above 35 is considered to be "natural area" quality.
  • Generates 16,649 kWh of solar power annually, or 53.7% of the building's energy use. This saves $975 in energy costs each year.

Social

  • Hosts year-round classes and special events for an average of 5,660 visitors annually.
  • Provides opportunities for an average of 118 volunteers, per year, who in total put in over 472 volunteer hours, which has an estimated value of $11,677.

Economic

  • Generates average revenues of $20,740 annually through classes and building rental fees.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    Conservation Design Forum

  • Project Type

    Nature preserve

  • Former Land Use

    Greenfield

  • Location

    2400 Compass Rd
    Glenview, Illinois 60026

    Map it

  • Climate Zone

    Humid continental

  • Size

    32 acres

  • Budget

    $1,512,815

  • Completion Date

    2007

Naval Air Station Glenview closed in September 1995, and the land was transferred to the Village of Glenview, Illinois for redevelopment. During the air station’s transformation into a mixed-use development, a prairie remnant that existed on a portion of the site was protected and, thanks to thousands of hours of volunteer labor, restored from its degraded state. The prairie is supplemented with a 3,000-sf interpretive center, a LEED-Platinum building that serves as a public meeting space and educational center with areas for indoor and outdoor classroom presentations and active learning. The Kent Fuller Air Station Prairie and the Evelyn Pease Tyner Interpretive Center work together to educate thousands of annual visitors about the prairies that once covered millions of acres in the Midwest.

  • A 2,620-sf green roof on the interpretive center has a reinforcing grid system that keeps 6.5 in of soil medium in place. Plants on the green roof include sedum, allium, coreopsis, heuchera, and eastern prickly pear. A 16.9-kW photovoltaic roof shingle system is also located on the interpretive center roof.
  • 58 helical piers elevate the building above the highest predicted water level of the adjacent wetlands.
  • An 11-ton geothermal HVAC system, which connects to a network of 9 horizontal geothermal wells, heats and cools the interpretive center.
  • 25.6 acres of existing remnant prairie were preserved during construction of the interpretive center.
  • A 1-mile system of pedestrian pathways traverses the prairie and allows visitors an up-close view of a wide variety of prairie plants. 
  • Existing ephemeral wetlands collect and retain all rainwater that falls on the site. There are no stormwater discharge pipes leaving the site. During years of heavy rainfall, these pools become major site features.
  • 6,335 sf of permeable pavers were used in the parking and pull-off area.
  • Recycled products used in the project’s construction include crushed concrete, rebar, structural steel, steel railings, and ceramic tile.

Challenge

One of the major challenges for the project was to minimize the impacts of construction on the prairie remnant. Construction is an invasive and damaging activity, and the construction of an interpretive center could have had dramatic impacts on the prairie site including soil compaction, loss of biodiversity, introduction of invasive weed seeds, and changes to established drainage patterns.

Solution

The potential damage to the sensitive site was minimized in the design phase by focusing the construction of the building and pedestrian pathways on the portions of the site that had already been disturbed by previous use. This protected the most sensitive areas of the prairie from further degradation. The building itself was constructed on a pile footing instead of a typical spread footing to minimize the footprint of the building on the ground.

The most significant obstacle for this project was protecting the air station prairie from development. Early on during the air station’s redevelopment process, an overall master plan for the site called for the redevelopment of the prairie. Due to its prime road frontage at an intersection and location directly across the street from a Metra train station, several individuals strongly pushed  to convert the site to commercial real estate and “relocate” the prairie. A former Glenview councilperson stated that the property was estimated to be worth $1 million per acre.

Fortunately, a group of local environmentalists who understood the value of the prairie remnant advocated for conservation by explaining the benefits of protecting the site, which is a rare remaining example of a Midwestern prairie. Thanks to their persistent efforts, the Village of Glenview began to recognize the site’s value and decided to follow their recommendation to preserve the prairie. Without the efforts of prairie advocates, this place would not exist.The prairie and interpretive center are named after two of these local environmental advocates, Kent Fuller and Evelyn Pease Tyner. Mr. Fuller has served as a village commissioner, board of trustees member, and chairman of the village’s Natural Resources Commission. He is also an active member of the North Branch Restoration Project, and he volunteers hundreds of hours per year working at the prairie and other local sites. Mrs. Tyner earned a PhD in Biological Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and has spent her life advocating for the protection of sites like the James B. Woodworth Prairie, the Grove National Historic Landmark, and the Kent Fuller Air Station Prairie. 

Both asphalt and permeable pavers were evaluated for use in the 2,1000-sf parking and pull-off area. The permeable paving system cost $10,500 more than asphalt. The design team ultimately decided that the project’s emphasis on environmental sustainability and protection of the prairie ecosystem warranted the additional expenditure for permeable pavers.

  • The prairie restoration area has inspired an increase in the use of native plants on adjacent commercial properties. This could be a sign of increased awareness of the value of native plant species in the built environment and acceptance of their less formal appearance. When interviewed, the design team for the development of an adjacent property stated that the prairie had definite influence on the overall landscape design and the plants that were selected and installed for their project. 
  • The solar panels do not always meet the estimated power generation that was predicted at the time of the LEED application, and drop to as low as 18.88% of the estimated output at times. This lower-than-anticipated power generation occurs mainly during the winter months, which could indicate an issue with snow cover on the solar panels or fewer clear-sky days than expected. Additional research would be necessary to verify the details of production levels and develop strategies to boost production.  
  • One of the pedestrian trails crosses over a ridge that separates 2 ephemeral wetland ponds. During the design phase of the project, the design team did not have enough data to verify the elevation at which the ponds would most likely equalize during periods of heavy rainfall or rapid snowmelt. A series of stone runnels were placed in the ground perpendicular to the pathway to provide a route for water to pass through while maintaining a dry walkway for pedestrians. The stone runnels were installed several inches too low, and the pathway becomes inundated with water from the ponds in the spring. The pathway and the runnels should be elevated several inches above this ponding elevation. Instead, a series of haphazardly-placed bricks and pavers have been installed to act as stepping stones across the puddle of water. In hindsight, when details like this are in question, there should be an allocation of construction funds reserved for future adjustments based on final conditions. That would have allowed the parks department to document the changing water elevations and determine the position of the stone runnels necessary to maintain a dry pathway for pedestrians.

Pavers: Unilock, Stonehenge and Unigranite interlocking concrete pavers
Bicycle Rack: Madrax
Wood Deck: CertainTeed, EcoTech material
Green Roof: American Hydrotech, Garden Roof Assembly

Project Team

Landscape Architect: Conservation Design Forum 
Client: The Glen Development Corporation
Architect and Engineer: Wight and Company
Architect: Phoenix Architects
Educational Displays: Bluestone + Associates
Contractor: Pepper Construction, Damgaard Landscape

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect’s role in the project began with advising the developer on how to create a mixed-use community around the prairie remnant while protecting its ecological value. The landscape architect’s involvement continued with the development of the site plan. They assisted in the preparation of the qualifications for the architect search, which allowed them to partner with architecture firms with similar ecological values. They also provided ecological engineering services and produced the construction drawings and planting plans for the site.

Case Study Prepared By

Research Fellow: M. Elen Deming, Professor, University of Illinois
Research Assistant: D. Scott Douglas, MLA Candidate, University of Illinois
Firm Liaison: Danielle Fisher, Marketing Coordinator, Conservation Design Forum
August 2015

To cite:

Deming, M. Elen, and Scott Douglas. “Tyner Interpretive Center and Kent Fuller Air Station.” Landscape Performance Series. Landscape Architecture Foundation, 2015. https://doi.org/10.31353/cs0900

Topics

Stormwater management, Habitat quality, Energy use, Recreational & social value, Educational value, Visitor spending, Bioretention, Educational signage, Efficient lighting, Green roof, Native Plants, Onsite energy generation, Wetland, Learning landscapes

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