Post image for Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center

Project Info

Santa Cruz, California
12,400 sf
Completed in 2012


The National Marine Sanctuary Program, the City of Santa Cruz, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) teamed to develop the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) Exploration Center located in the active Beach Boardwalk area of Santa Cruz, California. This sanctuary is a federally protected marine area offshore of California’s central coast, encompassing 276 miles of shoreline and 6,094 square miles of ocean. The Exploration Center provides approximately 350,000 visitors annually a unique hands-on introduction to the diverse ecosystem of California’s central coast and encourages stewardship of the ocean and shoreline.

The Center, which is free to the public, attracts visitors to come, explore and learn in the vibrant “amusement park” atmosphere of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. The transparent and highly interactive interpretive center has five primary program elements: exhibit space, classroom, administrative offices, gift shop and building support. The dynamic building form and materials were inspired by California coastal architecture and natural forms, such as wave crests and shells, to attract the public into the exhibit and educational spaces.

Sustainable Design Highlights:
Sustainable Design Highlights:

During the building process, 90% of construction waste was recycled, thus diverting it away from the landfill. At least 20% of materials were manufactured and processed within the building’s region. The vast majority of the wood used in the project was certified as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), including all exterior cedar siding, linear wood ceilings, and plywood. Materials with recycled content such as steel, concrete, ceramic tile and carpet were specified in order to reduce the resource impact. Ample, indirect daylight and use of thermally insulated glass that transmits light but limits heat gain enhances indoor comfort while providing excellent views of the sanctuary. To improve indoor air quality, the Center utilizes urea formaldehyde-free composite wood products and paints, coatings, adhesives and sealants with the lowest possible levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

The natural ventilation strategy, on-site renewable energy generation, and other energy efficient measures combine to provide the Center with a projected 38% energy savings over a code baseline building. The building also aggressively reduces its water use, while still maintaining the highest standards of cleanliness, by incorporating high-efficiency plumbing fixtures such as dual flush toilets, waterless urinals and low-flow faucets. The projected water use reduction is 53% better than code.

Certification: LEED Gold