A ramp leads to the main entrance of the new Chesapeake Bay Foundation Brock Environmental Center.
A view of the lobby shows an airy space illuminated by clerestory windows.
The south porch of the eco-friendly Brock Environmental Center.
Water is visible through a wall of  windows in a conference room.
The Brock Environmental Center boasts water views.
The south porch of the eco-friendly Brock Environmental Center.
Water is visible through a wall of  windows in a conference room.
The Brock Environmental Center boasts water views.

Coastal Conservancy

The new Chesapeake Bay Foundation Brock Environmental Center

The new Chesapeake Bay Foundation Brock Environmental Center sprawls across half an acre of Virginia Beach shoreline—the only major structure on a 118-acre tract of land preserved by the Trust for Public Land and the City of Virginia Beach for open space and environmental education.

The role of the Brock Center is to spearhead environmental advocacy, restoration, and education. Its design, by SmithGroupJJR, protects, preserves and celebrates its setting. A curved building form hugs the shoreline while rounded rooflines mimic the wings of gulls and oyster shells. The material palette references the site’s colors and textures: Zinc shingles recall fish scales while cypress cladding echoes the hues of the land. Metal accents pick up the glistening water nearby.

The design team carefully preserved local ecology and water quality during construction, retaining old-growth forests and wetlands that are reestablishing along the shoreline. The sustainable design contributes to net-zero energy, water, and waste: The long, narrow, one-story structure maximizes daylighting and natural ventilation and the exterior envelope was optimized to reduce heating demand. A porch along the south façade shelters the interiors, while large clerestory windows bring in natural light. Interiors are loft-like, with 20-foot ceilings at their peak. The design anticipates hurricanes and rising sea levels; set 200 feet back from the shore on 14-foot pylons, the structure is built to resist 120-mile-per-hour winds.

The Brock Center will host 2,500 area students and teachers a year and serve as a meeting place for local conservation partners. 

ARCHITECTURE & ENGINEERING: SmithGroupJJR, Washington, DC. CONSTRUCTION: Hourigan Construction, Virginia Beach, Virginia. SITE DESIGN: WPL, Virginia Beach, Virginia. PHOTOGRAPHY: DAVE CHANCE, courtesy of SmithGroupJJR.