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Audubon Center at Debs Park

>Land Use
>Indoor Environment
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Audubon Center at Debs Park

This photo shows the Audubon Center at Debs Park in the foreground, and the City of Los Angeles in the background.
Photo credit: Gary Leonard


  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Building type(s): Interpretive Center, Recreation, Park
  • New construction
  • 5,020 ft2 (467 m2)
  • Project scope: a single building
  • Urban setting
  • Completed November 2003
  • Rating: U.S. Green Building Council LEED-NC, v.2/v.2.1--Level: Platinum (53 points)
    Rating: Zero Energy Building --Level: Near Zero

Located just ten minutes northeast of downtown Los Angeles, Ernest E. Debs Regional Park is a 282-acre urban wilderness owned by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. The Audubon Center at Debs Park occupies 17 acres of the park, leased from the City.

The focus of the project is environmental education. The Center provides educational programs for the 50,000 schoolchildren who live within two miles of the park. It includes a multipurpose "Discovery Room," for teaching and displays, a library and meeting room, a reception area, a gift shop, and a catering kitchen. The Debs Park facility is part of the Audubon Society's focus on establishing Centers in urban and underserved communities.

Near Zero Energy Building

The Audubon Center at Debs Park is considered a near zero energy building (ZEB) that is grid independent. It is a very low energy building that uses minimal fossil fuel and is not connected to the grid. The building is expected to require only five kWh per square foot due to its energy-efficient strategies including use of daylighting, photovoltaics, and thermal mass. Occasionally, the Center will use a small generator to charge the storage batteries.

Environmental Aspects

The Audubon Center at Debs Park is the National Audubon Society's first nature center in California to be constructed from the ground up using environmentally sensitive design techniques. It is also the first building in the U.S. to achieve a Platinum rating under version 2 of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED(R)) Rating System.

The Center is operated entirely off-grid, using only power generated on site. It is expected to use only 25,000 kWh of energy each year (around five kWh per square foot). The Center is designed to use 70% less water than a comparable conventional building, and to treat all wastewater on site. More than 50% of the building materials were manufactured locally, and more than 97% of construction debris was recycled.

The National Audubon Society plans to build a thousand urban facilities around the country by 2020.

Owner & Occupancy

  • Owned and occupied by The National Audubon Society, Corporation, nonprofit
  • Typically occupied by 8 people, 40 hours per person per week

Building Programs

Indoor Spaces:

Retail general, Lobby/reception, Other, Classroom, Restrooms, Circulation, Office

Outdoor Spaces:

Wildlife habitat, Parking, Drives/roadway, Pedestrian/non-motorized vehicle path, Interpretive landscape, Restored landscape


Integrated team, Green framework, Simulation, Green specifications, Open space preservation, Wildlife habitat, Indigenous vegetation, Stormwater management, Efficient fixtures and appliances, Graywater, Wastewater treatment, Glazing, Passive solar, Efficient lighting, On-site renewable electricity, Local materials, Certified wood, C&D waste management, Connection to outdoors, Daylighting, Natural ventilation, Low-emitting materials

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