The Living Building Challenge at Amazing Space

Amazing Space is officially Living Building Challenge Petal Certified!

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.

Below are a few of the design elements Indian Creek Nature Center chose to pursue to achieve this standard.

More Info

Net Zero Energy
Net Zero Water
Biophilic Design
Materials and appropriate sourcing
Civilized Environment
Zero Waste
Experience Amazing Space
Net Zero Energy

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.

Net Zero Water

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.

Biophilic Design

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?

Materials and appropriate sourcing

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.

Civilized Environment

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.

Zero Waste

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.

Experience Amazing Space

Arriving at Indian Creek Nature Center you will see how native prairie plants absorb parking lot runoff and how permeable pavers filter contaminants from cars. Native Linden trees provide shade. Instead of driving, consider biking from the Sac & Fox trail. You’ll get premium parking, a healthy workout, and not pollute the air.

Photo Gallery

Amazing Space opened September 2016

Amazing Space Net Zero Energy Facts

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.