Originally Published: June 10, 2010 10:01 p.m.
On the surface, they are two design projects that Matthew Ackerman and Jeffrey Zucker got done on deadline and under budget.
A closer look at the projects Zucker, Ackerman and their crew did for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is an interesting tale in green building and federal stimulus money.
The visitor center projects in California and Texas were both trying and rewarding for Ackerman and Zucker, the partners behind Catalyst Architecture in Prescott.
The Texas center is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification and the California center is seeking LEED platinum honors, the highest level of certification possible, according to Ackerman.
"It was an amazing challenge," he said. "This (California) design was really the highlight of my career."
Zucker and Ackerman designed the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge Visitor's Center in Sherman, Texas, and the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Visitor's Center and administrative headquarters in Los Banos, Calif.
The gull-winged center in Texas features canted glass to cut the chances of bird strikes in the protected wetland estuary. Vertical fins rise the length of the building, shading the tall windows from solar gain and curving trellises supporting grape vines for greater shading and cooling of the building.
The administration complex in California features solar panels to help control indoor climate, and the building includes recycled, reused, regional and low-emitting materials, water conservation fixtures, LED lights, passive heating and cooling and vanpool parking to promote alternative energy transportation, according to Ackerman.
"We were in the right place at the right time," he said. "Part of the reason we got selected was because of our track record with energy-efficient buildings."
That timing actually came into motion about three years ago when Ackerman and Zucker competed for and won a five-year contract to work on future Fish and Wildlife projects.
When the money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act reached Fish and Wildlife, Catalyst ultimately got stimulus money for the projects.
Ackerman said they spent that money to hire three local architects and a couple of CAD draftsmen from fall 2009 to this past spring.
"Luckily, this is an employment market where the talent is available," he said. "We essentially doubled in size over that time."
One of those new hires is Deborah Lesnefska.
Lesnefska was working for a Prescott home remodeling firm when the economic downturn led to her layoff this past October.
After working as an independent contractor for Catalyst the following month, Lesnefska got a full-time gig two months later, where she is working on both centers.
"I was lucky that Catalyst had work," she said. "It's all thanks to the stimulus money and the growing green building sector."
Besides the additional jobs, Zucker said the projects illustrate how green building works for the environment and financially.
"It shows a stewardship for the environment; that's a natural direction to go," he said.