It’s been estimated that on any given weekend, the Irvine Spectrum Center–an outdoor shopping center in Irvine, California–has as many visitors as Disneyland. Each year, it hosts a fundraiser called Project Playhouse aimed at raising funds for HomeAid, a local affordable housing nonprofit. This year, one of the seven Playhouses up for bid is known as the Ocean Adventure Lab–and it has a decidedly green twist.
Built by “a consortium of companies that value environmentally friendly design” including Turner Construction, the Ocean Adventure Lab emphasizes learning, having fun and caring for the environment with a working wave tank, microscopes, oceanography books, a working projector featuring underwater sea creatures, and a Playstation 2 (Ps2). Designers worked with Dana Point at the Ocean Institute to make sure the Ocean Lab presents real education as well as entertainment.
Sustainable features of the playhouse include locally manufactured and reclaimed materials, materials with recycled contents, drought-tolerant, California native vegetation, 100% natural wool insulation, piping, and a structure made of composite wood, energy efficient luminaries and LED lighting, panels and a sliding door comprised of Trex Accents, and Suntech Black Label photovoltaic solar modules on the roof (that Playstation has to pull juice from somewhere). All of which adds up to one net zero playhouse.
While the playhouse has not traditionally been known as a big energy consumer–consisting as it usually does of something more like a tree-house than something out of Pee Wee’s daydreams–this upscale, educational California version is nevertheless noteworthy in its extravagance. After all, if you’re going to spoil your kids, why pull more energy off the grid to do it? And after all, it’s for a good cause.