Woodlands Stewardship Education Center Completion Celebrated with Ribbon Cutting

Lorynn Holloway
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The project team joined Fairfax County Park Authority to celebrate the opening of the new facility.

The Quinn Evans project team joined the Fairfax County Park Authority to celebrate the ribbon cutting of the Woodlands Stewardship Education Center (WSEC) located in Ellanor C. Lawrence Park in Chantilly, VA, on November 18, 2023. County leaders, project benefactors, and community members participated in the inaugural event, touring the facility designed to meet the rigorous standards of the Living Building Challenge (LBC)—a distinction achieved by only a select few projects worldwide.

A group of people cutting the ribbon and celebrating a new building opening.
Credit: Fairfax County Park Authority
Two men and four women standing in front of a building below the moniker.
L to R: Joe Riley-Ryan (Bowman), Heather Lynch (FCPA-Project Manager), Jeremiah Huth (Quinn Evans), Melody Cates (Quinn Evans), Katie Slattery (Quinn Evans), and Carrie Seifert (Woods-Peacock)

Designed to inspire and educate visitors about the natural and cultural resources of Fairfax County, this cutting-edge facility targets the prestigious LBC certification, the gold standard in sustainable building performance. As a teaching tool, the WSEC demonstrates sustainable building techniques and environmentally conscious practices, aiming to generate more resources than it consumes.

An open woodsy area filled with people engaging with one another and children playing in front of an education center.
Every aspect of this facility is an exhibit that illustrates our connection to the natural world and creates an experience that will ignite the imaginations and creativity of young people through hands-on experiences and play.
- Jai Cole, park Authority Executive Director

From reclaimed construction materials to sustainable energy sources, the WSEC is a testament to environmental stewardship. Experimentation with simple machines and natural observation spaces provides a hands-on teaching platform, reshaping our relationship with the environment.

A man, woman and children surrounding a wooden table looking at stones and getting acquainted with nature.
Credit: Fairfax County Park Authority

The facility boasts modern visitor amenities while fostering a deep connection to the surrounding woodlands and pond. A continuous wraparound porch connects all areas, overlooking outdoor learning stations like an animal enclosure, STEAM terrace, and playground.

The project, with meticulous attention to the LBC's seven performance categories, including Place, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity, and Beauty, exemplifies intentional decision-making to preserve the environment and provide a unique user experience. The Park Authority will apply for LBC certification after one year of operation.

This $8.8 million project, funded by park bonds, proffers, and contributions through the Fairfax County Park Foundation, marks a significant step in redefining our interaction with the environment.

Watch a video of the new WSEC below.

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