Welcome to Amazing Space!

Amazing Space opened September 2016

Living Building Challenge Petal Certified in 2019

Indian Creek Nature Center is a designated partner site of Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area.

Amazing Space is Indian Creek Nature Center’s building and campus that opened in September of 2016. In 2019, the building achieved Living Building Challenge Petal Certification!

Amazing Space provides endless opportunities for exploration and discovery, and serves as your gateway to the beautiful natural world outside its doors.

  • Explore our exhibits — including the new Indian Creek Exhibit which allows visitors of all abilities to experience the magic & wonder beneath the Nature Center’s namesake, Indian Creek. Don’t forget to say “hi” to our live painted turtles, Squiggles, Squish and Squirt in the fountain!
  • Relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of our bird sanctuary from the bird room. Crack open the doors to the demonstration hive & find the queen bee!
  • See how much energy the solar panels are producing and marvel at the other sustainable features of the building at the Energy Portal.
  • Don’t forget to swing by our Creekside Shop for a gift, raw honey, maple syrup or farm-fresh eggs and produce.

Amazing Space is not only beautiful, it’s one of the most environmentally sustainable buildings in the country. In 2019, Amazing Space achieved Living Building Challenge Petal Certification – a rigorous certification that is years beyond LEED in providing a measure of true sustainability.

Whether you come here to hike our scenic trails, participate in a yoga class or other public program, attend a special event, or to let your children play in the outdoor classroom, we know you’ll want to come back again and again.

Take a virtual tour of the space below, and then come see it for yourself!

When Indian Creek Nature Center set out to create a new facility, we faced a dilemma. How could we design a building and site that comprehensively expanded our mission of sustainability? Long a leader in energy efficiency and runoff prevention design and technologies, the Nature Center accepted (and has achieved!) the Living Building Challenge Petal Certification.

The Living Building Challenge is a comprehensive certification process set forth by the International Living Future Institute. The certification was designed to integrate human spaces with natural spaces; to celebrate the beauty and structure of nature; and, to lead the way in sustainable design.

Living Buildings don’t just push the envelope for sustainable design. Those who meet the challenge break through the barriers of conventional building practices and the standards set by other sustainable initiatives, including the U.S Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. Living Buildings create synergy between nature and the built environment, between individuals and the community, and between current design and future energy use.

The Seven Petals of the Challenge:

1) Site-restoring a healthy coexistence with nature
  • Limits to Growth-construction is limited to appropriate locations, reducing sprawl.
  • Urban Agriculture- integrate agriculture opportunities into the site.
  • Habitat Exchange-an area equal to the amount of land developed for the project is permanently protected.
  • Car Free Living-encourage walking and biking.
2) Water-creating water independent sites, buildings and communities
  • Net Zero Water-capture and use precipitation.
  • Ecological Water Flow-manage storm water and treat wastewater on site.
3) Energy-relying only on current solar income
  • Net Zero Energy-create 100 percent of project’s annual net energy use on-site.
4) Health-maximizing physical and psychological health and well-being
  • Civilized environment-occupied interior spaces will have operable windows for fresh air and daylight.
  • Healthy air-over the course of an operating year, building must meet high air quality standards.
  • Biophilia include the following design elements: environmental features, natural shapes and forms, natural patterns and processes, light and space, place-based relationships, and evolved human-nature relationships.
5) Materials-endorsing products and processes which are safe for all species through time
  • Red list-materials or chemicals considered harmful by the ILBI are banned, including everything from Chlorofluorocarbons to polyvinyl chloride.
  • Embodied Carbon Footprint-purchase carbon offset credits to account for construction.
  • Responsible Industry-advocate for sustainable resource extraction and fair labor practices.
  • Appropriate sourcing-use local products and services.
  • Conservation and reuse-develop comprehensive Material Conservation Management Plan.
6) Equity-supporting a just, equitable world
  • Human scale and human places-experience promotes culture and interaction, not vehicles.
  • Democracy and social justice-accessible to everyone, regardless of background, age, socioeconomic class, and physical disabilities.
  • Rights to nature-will not block access to other buildings’ fresh air and sunlight, or restrict access to waterways.
7) Beauty-celebrating design that creates transformative change
  • Beauty and spirit-create design features solely for human delight and celebration of place.
  • Inspiration and education-provide education and share the experience to motivate change.

Place: Explore our 290-acre property (of 500 total that ICNC manages) steps outside the doors of Amazing Space, which features more miles of of trails through native prairie, woodlands and wetlands.

Energy: Solar panels on the roof of our building as well as in the Alliant Energy solar field produce more than 100 percent of the energy Amazing Space needs each year. Geothermal buried beneath our thriving prairie provides heating and cooling to the space.

Water: Permeable pavers, wetlands, rain gardens and bioswales retain 100 percent of the rainwater on site, which prevents downstream flooding. The ecological robustness of the native prairie, shrubs and trees eliminates the need for irrigation. Wastewater is treated on site through a septic system and gradually filters back into the soil.

Health & Happiness: Biophilic design is incorporated throughout Amazing Space, including a living plant wall, live edge baseboard, and windows that flood our building with natural light. The windows open so that you can appreciate the rich smells and sounds of nature. Even when they are closed, the air in Amazing Space is exchanged every 10 minutes with fresh air from outside. Look for the green light; when it lights up, that means it is OK (energy efficient) to open the windows! Please close them behind you.

Equity: Amazing Space is designed to be accessible to everyone. The building is ADA compliant and free and open to the public. Almost everything in the building was sourced within 500 miles and built by local companies, union labor and volunteers.

Beauty & Spirit: Enjoy sustainable, handmade furniture created by local woodworker and artist John Schwartzkopf. Look up to appreciate the pattern of the open wooden rafters. Experience a piece of cultural history in the reclaimed barn boards panelling the auditorium. Spend a peaceful moment in our bird room, listening to the bird song streamed in live from outside. Look for the webbed glass (Ornilux) that helps prevent birds from striking the glass. Watch water dance down the rain chains on a rainy day.

Inspiration & Education: Look for signs and interactive tools throughout the property that educate and inspire, such as the hands-on solar display that demonstrates how photovoltaics work.

On-site solar panels produce more than 100 percent of the annual energy Amazing Space needs. A tight building envelope with thick insulation and energy efficient features make this possible. Visit the mechanical room to see the Energy Recovery Unit, and visit the portal to see how the geothermal system works. Manipulate the outdoor solar display to develop a better understanding of how the sunlight and solar panels interact to produce power.

Net Zero Energy

Net Zero Energy means that a building produces more electricity on-site through renewable sources (like solar, wind, or hydropower) than it consumes. Net Zero Energy is a certification administered by the International Living Future Institute and is part of the Living Building Challenge certification.

Indian Creek Nature Center is the first commercial building in Iowa to pursue Net Zero Energy Certification. One other building is currently under certification review, and it is the headquarters of Design Engineers – the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design contractor selected by ICNC to design Amazing Space. They began to seek Net Zero Energy certification after working on ICNC’s project.

Three other Iowa buildings produce more energy than they use, but are not pursuing certification. These are the Market 1 building in Des Moines, and The Sky Factory and The Sustainable Living Center, both in Fairfield.


In 2015, Indian Creek Nature Center (ICNC) and Alliant Energy formed a long-term partnership to research the effectiveness of solar energy as a grid-connected generation source and to educate the public on the benefits of solar energy. This partnership allows Alliant Energy (and other utilities) to have accurate data for how to implement solar energy in the communities it serves.

For fifteen years, ICNC will lease ground and roof space to Alliant Energy for the installation of solar panels.  ICNC pays standard utility rates for the electricity and does not get paid for energy generated due to the specific nature of this agreement. ICNC and the broader community benefit from this partnership through enhanced solar energy education and research.

Alliant Energy has installed four different types of solar panel mounts:

  • Fixed roof
  • Fixed ground mount
  • Single-axis tracking ground mount
  • Dual-axis tracking ground mount

ICNC participated in Iowa Power & Light’s Commercial New Construction program to build energy efficiency in at every step of the construction process; the building was modeled to be 52% more efficient than if built to standard energy code.


Energy Production & Consumption

Solar Panel Total Production:                      135.370 MWh
Amazing Space Electrical Usage:                111.440 MWh
Excess Electricity Produced:                 23.930 MWh

38% came from the roof-mounted panels
62% came from the ground-mounted panels

That means that just the excess energy generated at Amazing Space offsets one of these items:

  • 8 Barrels of Oil
  • 94 Tons of Coal
  • 8,1652.55 Cubic Feet of Natural Gas
  • 59 Tons of TNT
  • 4 Cords of Oak firewood, which is 12,773 pounds of wood

Excess energy produced by ICNC would power the average Iowa home for 2.28 years.

The building was designed to use minimal water in its restrooms. When water is used, it is captured on site through a septic system and gradually infiltrates back into the soil. The landscape relies on 100 species of 100 percent native plants that don’t require watering. Visit the Meadow outside or the Website plant list to learn more about native landscaping options. Rainwater is kept on site, through wetlands, rain gardens, and bioswales which prevent downstream flooding.

Biophilia is the deliberate incorporation of elements to nurture the celebration of natural systems and processes. Elements include environmental features, Natural shapes and forms, natural patterns and processes, light and space, place-based relationships, and evolved human-nature relationships. Can you find examples of these throughout the building?

Almost everything in the building, from the limestone to the wooden beams, was sourced from within 500 miles. The building was designed and built by local companies using union labor. Many of the elements, from the Living Wall to the Fountain, were created by volunteers. Consider volunteering your time and talent to continue to enrich our spaces.

The room you are in has windows that open, so you can enjoy the rich smells and sounds of the Nature Center. Look for the green button; when it lights up, the humidity and temperature outside are such that it is OK to open the window. Please close them behind you. To learn the birds you are hearing, visit the bird room.

When you throw something away, it doesn’t magically disappear. Depending on what it is, it can stay in a landfill for thousands of years, or create methane when it breaks down. We are pursuing zero waste certification. Help us by putting items you are finished with-from dead pens and batteries to plastic bags-in the right receptacle.

Hazelnut Hideaway, located between Indian Creek Nature Center’s Amazing Space and Bena Brook, is an outdoor classroom and playscape designed for children and adults to explore, discover, daydream, and play outdoors together as they connect with our earth.


Center and Creekside Shop Hours:

March – October
10 AM – 4 PM, 7 days a week

November – February
Monday: Closed
Tuesday – Sunday: 10am – 4pm

Free and open to the public.

Grounds and Trails

Open 365 days a year, 5am – 10pm. Dogs allowed on grounds and trails on a leash. Please do not bring pets into the Nature Center building. Service animals are welcome.

Snowshoes are for rent at the Nature Center any time there is at least five inches of snow. Visit our blog for more information.

Photo Gallery