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After fires, Goodan Ranch rises again

In October 2003, the Cedar fire burned several popular buildings in Goodan Ranch Open Space Preserve, including "the old ranch house," a water tower and the "milking barn." Goodan Ranch is a 330-acre preserve jointly owned by the county of San Diego, the cities of Poway and Santee and the State Department of Fish and Game. This month, construction of a new center designed as a hub for visitors begins.

On the morning of Sept. 12, representatives from the county, Poway, Friends of Goodan Ranch & Sycamore Canyon and the design team held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the reconstruction kickoff.

The new, 3,150-square-foot center will be a "green building" that minimizes its impact on the natural environment and enhances the built environment experience for users and visitors. Additionally, the center will be built with fire-resistive materials.

The building will contain a ranger's office, demonstration area, kitchenette and lobby/exhibit area. The verandas will offer an additional 782 square feet of covered space.

The county worked closely with Platt/Whitelaw Architects and their design team to select materials and design the building so that it would qualify for a LEED rating.

The LEED rating system is a program of the U.S. Green Building Council that promotes and defines leadership in energy and environmental design. In order to qualify for a LEED rating, a building must meet certain requirements in the areas of design, efficiency, materials, orientation, systems and more.

It was important to the county, the design team and the public to preserve the region's natural and cultural resources and to respect the pristine natural setting of Goodan Ranch and the neighboring Sycamore Canyon Open Space Preserve. The area is a haven for animals, plants -- including several threatened plant species -- and outdoor enthusiasts.

Priorities for the design process included enhancing the public learning experience, energy efficiency, low maintenance and building longevity.

The design team incorporated the natural environment, the history of the ranch and sustainable strategies into the new building.

The new center will exceed the energy savings requirements mandated by California's Title 24 by over 50 percent. The design team accomplished this through the use of window shading, building and window orientation, energy efficient systems and efficient lighting.

To limit pollution, the new center will have decomposed granite roads, walks and parking areas, rather than asphalt. Decomposed granite allows water to seep through and get cleaned by the ground below. With asphalt, water that may contain pollutants drains at limited runoff areas, which can overwhelm the natural environment.

By selecting appropriate and durable materials, the design team helps ensure that the building performs well into the future with limited maintenance and that its impact on the environment is minimal.

Platt/Whitelaw Architects specified low-volatile organic compound paints and finishes that minimize potential health risks and limit off gassing. Fiber cement siding helps protect the building against wildfires, provides more durability than wood and consumes fewer natural resources to produce.

A passive heating and cooling system minimizes the need for mechanical systems use and reduces the county's operational expenses.

A "cool roof" maximizes reflectivity and minimizes heat gain, thereby reducing the need for air-conditioning the visitors' center. Double-paned and shaded windows will also help cut down on heat gain and effectively insulate the building.

Much of the lighting at the center will be on motion sensors so that they turn off when the building is unoccupied, thereby saving energy.

The ceramic tiles and the ceiling panels used in the building are made from recycled content.

Low-flow toilets and native, drought resistant landscaping reduce water consumption.

"The county's decision to make the new center a LEED-certified building shows leadership to preserve our natural resources and replace a tragic loss with a hopeful new opportunity," said architect Alison Whitelaw, FAIA.

Other sustainable design elements incorporated into the center at Goodan Ranch include the use of colored concrete, which reduces the need for finished floor materials; a pre-finished metal roof deck, which reduces materials used and provides a reflective ceiling for better light distribution; metal stud wall framing and steel trusses that have high recycled content; and fly ash concrete, which reduces cement content and reuses an industrial by-product.

Goodan Ranch will also feature photovoltaic panels that will generate some of the energy required by the building without relying on the power grid.

Director for the county of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation Renee Bahl is hopeful for the future of the Sycamore Canyon/Goodan Ranch Open Space Preserve.

"We are excited to turn the devastating event of the wildfires into a chance to rebuild smarter and better," she said. "The environmentally friendly design of the center at Goodan Ranch gives us an occasion to better serve the public, maximize efficiency, reduce operational costs and provide interpretive and educational opportunities."

The new center is scheduled for completion during summer 2007. For more information about this project or to visit Sycamore Canyon/Goodan Ranch Open Space Preserve, visit www.sdparks.org.


Whitelaw is president of Platt/Whitelaw Architects Inc.

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