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A Greener Charlottesville: "Green" Monticello

By: Myles Henderson Email
By: Myles Henderson Email

October 31, 2008

Monticello is probably the most recognizable icon of the Charlottesville area, but now it's getting some attention for being ecofriendly.

When people visit Jefferson's Monticello they are looking for a taste of the 1700's and 1800's. However, some of the ecofriendly technology in the new visitors center is straight from the 21st century. The Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Smith Education Center is a 42,000 square foot building designed with the environment in mind. Mike Merriam, Director of Construction Management, says, "We are going for LEED gold certification with this building. LEED stand for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design."

Probably the most important sustainable feature is the ground source heat pump technology. "It uses water that is circulated through the rock of the earth and into heat pumps in the mechanical rooms, to heat and cool the building in the most efficient manner possible." Several rooms in the visitor center have thermal windows or skylights. This helps eliminate the need for incandescent lighting.

Another key part of LEED certification involves the use of local building materials. "Our field stone came from Albemarle County and it's very unusual to have Albemarle County field stone as a veneer for buildings." The wood used comes from sustainably managed forests. Also on the outside of the buildings you may notice several green roofs, but these aren't typical green roofs with a few inches of soil and sparse plants. "We put a foot of soil and we are planting native meadow grasses up there." Some have 3 feet of soil and tress planted. Outside of the visitor's center special care has been taken to plant native plants to tie the building into the natural environment. "It's not just energy consumption but water consumption that your concerned about, so if your using native plants they are much heartier and will require much less irrigation."

The Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center is still under construction but will be open for a sneak peak on Saturday November 8th and is scheduled to be completed in early 2009.

If you have a going green idea just send Myles and email to

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