EnergyLines August 2017


Co-ops helps Environmental Center improve sustainability


Surrounded by farm fields and lush grasslands outside of Centerville, Indiana sits a new facility that is being built for a purpose – to teach others how to live a sustainable life.


Open to the public this year, the Cope Environmental Center (CEC) was designed and built on a small section of 130 acres using local labor and resources.


The intent for this environmentally-sustainable facility is to meet the Living Building Challenge requirements and Whitewater Valley REMC is helping them get there through a renewable energy grant.


How a co-op helped

Whitewater Valley REMC, a Hoosier Energy member cooperative, has partnered with CEC over the years to make energy efficiency improvements to another building at this location – now called the Sustainable Living Demonstration Home.


Recently, the cooperative has provided a $25,000 renewable energy grant to help with
the cost of the solar array for the new facility.


The solar array, with 85 panels, averaged 2.66 MWh in July. This is energy that the facility is using to power electrical components of the center.


Additionally, Whitewater Valley REMC’s partnership with the Cope Environmental Center helps to provide the average homeowner with ways to make their homes and lifestyles more environmentally friendly.


Co-op members can learn about a range of topics including lighting efficiency and rain chains.


Visitors can see how the facility is using daylight combined with Light Emitting Diodes to illuminate spaces and reduce electric use.


Outside, visitors can see how rain chains help the facility capture rainwater to be used for other purposes – reducing the need for “treated” water.


Cope Environmental Center
“The facility was built into a habitat, which shows options on how to enhance the natural space with beautiful views, big windows and wildlife around you.” ~ Nathan Smallwood,
Cope Executive Director

 Commitment to community

The center was built to educate the community through interactive, hands-on sustainability and nature-based programming for schools and other groups in the community. The nature hall, patio, large gathering space, and three-sided outdoor shelter offer additional opportunities for the community to learn the principles of sustainability.


Cope Environmental Center certificates sought


Living Building Challenge
Features of the environmental center
The Cope Environmental Center has many notable features to aid in its mission to promote the sustainable use of the Earth’s resources through education, demonstration and research.
“We brought the outdoors to the indoors with many hardwood features,” said Kaitlyn Blansett, Community Outreach Coordinator for Cope.
The Living Building Challenge encourages the center to continually think about how to bring the outdoors indoors. Many of the wood features throughout the building have educational pieces to them that aid children in their learning experience.

Zero Energy Certification

This certification requires projects to generate all energy on site without combustion, using as many renewable resources as possible.


Living Building Certification

This certification requires the facility to be fully operational for 12 months prior to certification by a third party.


Petal Certification

This certification requires seven “petals” in order to receive full certification: must be net zero water, net zero energy and non-toxic materials. In addition, the facility must meet four other requirements – the site must be environmentally friendly, aesthetically pleasing, equitable to the environment and foster a healthy environment.


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