This nonprofit's flagship facility on Narragansett Bay embodies its environmental mission.

By Jeff Book
January 24, 2008
Eric Roth

Save the Bay's headquarters building in Providence, RhodeIsland, is green from top to bottom. Croxton Collaborative Architectsgave the low-slung structure two wings. One houses administrativeoffices; the other, classrooms for educational programs. The wingsmeet at a central atrium that showcases the object of the group'sefforts: Narragansett Bay.

The entrance floor is a huge map of the bay in laser-cutlinoleum (a long-proven organic material). Skylights andclerestories supply ample, energy-saving daylight, diffused bysailcloth baffles suspended from the ceiling. A green roof ties thebuilding to the setting and reduces runoff. The design employs manyother Earth-friendly elements, among them rooftop photovoltaicpanels, a multizone HVAC system, water-saving plumbing fixtures,and cellulose wall insulation.

"The project reflects the continuing progress of green design,from integrating technology into high-performance buildings torestoring the land and water," says architect Randolph Croxton. The6-acre property had been an urban brownfield―in this case, acity dump. About $2 million of the tight $7 million total budgetwent to site remediation, including upgrading and capping the soil,installing a methane venting system, and creating landscaping that,like the green roof, absorbs and filters storm water before itreaches the bay. Half the shoreline consists of a newly formed saltmarsh that fosters intertidal marine life and prevents erosion. Theswaths of beach scrub and wetland seem so natural that the sound offreighters unloading at the nearby port can be startling.

"A lot of coastal sites in Rhode Island and elsewhere arechanging from industrial to residential," says Curt Spalding, Savethe Bay's executive director. "This project has become a catalystfor enlightened redevelopment of urban waterfronts." He adds, "Thisis not just a green building, it's a healthy building. It's a placethat makes people feel good."

Save the Bay; 800/627-7229 or Croxton Collaborative Architects;212/683-1998 or