Lord, Aeck & Sargent

Buford, Georgia


The Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center (GEHC) is a hands-on science learning center dedicated to increasing appreciation and understanding of water resources in Gwinnett County, a suburb of Atlanta. The center challenges children as well as adults to explore the impact that water has had on their everyday lives as well as future water management challenges. It is the county’s first green building–and it features what might well be the largest sloped green roof in the United States. Embodying the principles of conservation, the GEHC is projected to use 75 percent less potable water and 35 percent less energy than a conventional building of the same size.

The owner, architect, and landscape architect combed 233 acres set aside for the project and chose a building site that minimized the need for grading and would retain most of the existing tree canopy for shading. Most important, the designers chose a site that features a dry ravine. Taking its form in part from the site, the GEHC consists of two wings joined by a bridge spanning the ravine, which the designers used for a cascading water feature. Water from this feature recirculates throughout the building and is used for air conditioning, irrigation, and flushing toilets. It draws clean but non-potable water from the county’s nearby sewage treatment facility.

The 40,000-square-foot vegetated roof floats above a continuous band of windows. More than half of its surface is pitched at a 4:12 ratio. The roof helps clean and reduces the quantity of storm water runoff. It also mitigates the heat island effect and provides a natural habitat for insects and other wildlife. Planted with six species of drought-resistant flowering sedum, the vegetation needs no irrigation. The GEHC’s other key sustainable features include: deep roof overhangs on the north and south for shading; natural lighting provided by strategically located clerestory windows; automatic relief louvers that integrate fresh air circulation when temperatures are favorable; and granite cladding salvaged from another building nearby. The GEHC achieves its owner’s vision that it be a working model of ecologically sustainable design.



Gwinnett County, Georgia


Lord, Aeck & Sargent
1201 Peachtree Street, Ste 300
Atlanta, GA 30306
404-253-1400 tel.
404-253-1300 fax

Principal in charge: John Star

Project architect / manager: Meg Needle, Hank Houser

Architectural staff: Eighrene Gabrielle, Will Hall, Tom Butler, Jim Nicolow

Interior designer

Claire Oviatt with Lord Aeck Sargent


Structural: Uzun & Case

M/e/p, fire protection: Newcomb & Boyd

Civil: Lose & Associates


Landscape: The Jaeger Company

Lighting: Newcomb & Boyd

Exhibits: Van Sickle & Rolleri

A/v: Waveguide

General contractor

Juneau Construction with ECI (exhibits) and TSAV (classrooms, lecture and conference rooms)


Jonathan Hillyer Photography

Renderer: Barbara Ratner

AD system, project management, or other software used: Microstation V8



Structural system

DeKalb Steel

Exterior Cladding

Masonry: Elberton Granite

Metal/glass curtainwall: YKK

Concrete: LaFarge

Wood: Southern Yellow Pine


Elastomeric: American Hydrotech Rubberized Asphalt

Other: Growing Media by ERTH Products (American Hydrotech Litetop)


Glass: Viracon


Entrances: YKK

Metal doors: D & D

Wood doors: Eggers

Overhead rolling door: Cookson


Locksets: Best

Closers: Dorma

Interior finishes

Acoustical ceilings: Armstrong

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:    Lab casework by Kewaunee

Paints and stains: Sherwin Williams

Wallcoverings: Amcork

Special surfacing: Terroxy epoxy terrazzo in gallery floors by Adams Tile & Terrazzo

Floor and wall tile: Ceramic tile in H20 interactive area and restrooms by Crossville

Carpet: C&A Floor Coverings


Office furniture: Haworth

Chairs: Chromcraft


Interior ambient lighting: Lightolier

Downlights: Lightolier

Exterior: LSI Architectural Outdoor Lighting

Controls: ETC


Elevators/escalators: Thyssen Krup Elevator


Kohler, Zurn and Sloan