The Learning Campus is sited on 16 acres of upland forest at Gulf State Park, adjacent to park headquarters. The facilities include “bunk room” style lodging facilities, an auditorium, indoor and outdoor classrooms, and a restaurant. Designed by Architecture Works out of Birmingham, AL, all of the buildings are pursuing LEED Silver Certification. WATERSHED served as the Gulf Coast Sustainability Specialist, working with the design team to align project sustainability goals with the park master plan and vision, and to measure achievement of those goals.
The Learning Campus used the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system to measure building performance in terms of sustainable site development, water conservation, energy conservation, the creation of healthy indoor environments, and wise material use. LEED is the most widely used green building certification system in the world today, with over 96,000 LEED buildings in over 160 countries. It is the gold standard of green buildings and was critical to validating Gulf State Park’s status as a true eco-tourism destination.
The learning campus will provide a different lodging experience, more akin to an upscale youth hostel, than Gulf State Park’s Cabins, Cottages, Campground and Lodge. The auditorium, classrooms, and lab space support environmental education programs and serve as meeting and event spaces for small groups. The restaurant provides the campus and the public with an eco-friendly menu of locally sourced, farm to table offerings.
Starting in the summer of 2019, local school children and visitors of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores will have the opportunity to attend ta Summer Eco-Academy from July 22-26, 2019. The program is a project of the internationally recognized Jean Michelle Cousteau Ocean Futures Society, offered through the new Gulf Shores Center for EcoTourism and Sustainability.
And then, kicking off in the Fall of 2019, Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment, Gulf Coast program will be offered to local school children at the Learning Campus. The program is dedicated to experiential education with frequent excursions into the Aquatic and Terrestrial environments.