Wild Bear Nature Center

Wild Bear Nature Center

Nederland, Colorado

In an alpine setting, at nearly nine-thousand feet above sea level, the nature and science center is a lens from which to understand site.

In concert with the Wild Bear mission, the building acts as a living organism, a biophilic design providing opportunities to teach about nature and how we inhabit and sustain the earth. Through its net-positive energy design and programmatic intention, the modern building is designed to generate more energy than it consumes, integrating 50 kilowatts of photovoltaic solar panels, a highly insulated and airtight building envelope, passive solar gain and thermal mass systems, and natural stack ventilation system with highly advanced fresh-air delivery. Carbon-positive wood framing will provide additional carbon capture throughout the building.

By using locally sourced, recycled, and/or carbon-sequestering materials, the project exceeds the requirements of a net-zero building, taking responsibility for the environmental impacts of material manufacture, transport, and disposal that occur before and after a building’s life. Wild Bear Nature Center offers a unique experience of the nature and culture of the Front Range accessible to everyone. Sitting on a small portion of the 3,000-acre Mud Lake open space, the architecture embodies a complex interplay of environment, materials, systems, and program. A visit to Wild Bear provides a rich experience of the montane ecosystem.

In the face of its unique and challenging high-altitude environment, the building withstands cold winters and high winds with resilience and ingenuity. The orientation and siting of the building respond to the immediate topography and regional climate, harnessing passive benefits from solar and thermal conditions. The program supports individuals and families of all ages and abilities. The five-acre property offers considerable opportunities for discovery and exploration; outdoor amenities include a nature playscape, an amphitheater for classroom gatherings, and ecological observation stations connected by interpretive walking trails.

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