Envisioning an energy efficient building that teaches the value of the prairie, its history, and the importance of protecting and preserving it.

Evelyn Pease Tyner Interpretive Center
Glenview Park District
Glenview, IL

The Glenview Park District hired Wight & Company to provide comprehensive sustainable design services for the Evelyn Pease Tyner Interpretive Center. The award-winning, net-zero-designed building received LEED-Platinum certification.

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Project Challenge

The Evelyn Pease Tyner Center is the gateway to and part of the learning experience at the Glenview Air Station Prairie, a 33-acre pristine site. From the beginning, the building was to be an example of sustainability, and the highest level of recognition, LEED-Platinum certification, was sought. A critical challenge was of project was the need to provide public access to a large site that also needed to be preserved.

Our Solution

Our design combines the principles of Japanese pagodas that sit naturally in the landscape, with an element of transparency to blur the distinction between indoors and outdoors. One of the most innovative elements of this design was the decision to turn the building “inside out” — allowing the visitors to learn about the prairie through exhibits that are embedded in the skin of the building. This approach facilitates learning whether the center is open or closed.

The wood construction is appropriate to the site and utilizes renewable resources. Wide decks that surround the building are an inviting place to view the prairie, to learn about the ecology of the prairie by means of the sophisticated, educational interpretive panels on the building’s facades, and to begin a walking tour of a series of hands-on exhibits that occur through the prairie.

Throughout design, construction, and operation of the building, the goal of limiting impact to the natural prairie surroundings was held paramount. A visit to the site today will reveal that the goal of preserving one of Illinois’ few remaining prairies was achieved. Public access routes reiterate the preservation approach. This building shows that architecture can be both compatible with nature, by reflecting the characteristics of its site, and can achieve elegant harmony with its site through the use of prudent, respectful planning.


The building is elevated above the ground allowing natural runoff to a natural wetland and plant materials to remain intact. The roof of the building features a vegetated area of climate-adapted plants, and the integration of solar panels to produce electricity to operate the building. The building’s footprint is minimized to reduce energy usage by placing exhibits outside where they can be enjoyed by the public at all times of the day and year. This “inside-out” approach makes the building a continuous part of the prairie trail.

A geothermal ground water heat pump system warms the building in the winter and cools it in the summer. Careful attention to cross ventilation design ensures that the building is usually comfortable in the summer without mechanical systems. Large areas of insulated glass supply natural daylight to the interior of the building reducing the need for electrical lighting. Generous roof overhangs on the south and west sides shade the facades in summer while allowing warming sunlight into the interior in cold weather months.

Our design provides for 100 percent of on-site stormwater management, heat island effect reduction, light pollution reduction, water efficient landscaping, water use reduction, renewable energy use, low toxin emitting material use, day lighting, effective ventilation, recycled material use, 92-percent energy efficiency, and a green roof.  Site disturbance was also minimized during construction.

The building is LEED-Platinum certified. It uses 97.1 percent less energy than the minimum requirement for LEED certification and earned 16 out of a possible 17 credits in the LEED energy and atmosphere category. With its 16.9 kw solar array, the building was designed to be net zero; however, it has become such a popular destination in the community that it’s use has doubled, and it’s zero energy status remains unclaimed.


Awards & Recognition

  • 2011 First Place - New Commercial Buildings, American Society of Heating, Refrigeration & Air Conditioning (ASHRAE) Region VI Technology Award Program
  • 2008 Special Achievement Award, American Council of Engineering Companies, Illinois
  • 2008 Merit Award Finalist for Construction Under $10 Million, Chicago Building Congress
  • 2007 Mies Van Der Rohe Award, AIA Illinois