Press Release

Contact: Lori Whalen

Phone: (949) 335-8656 (cell)






Environmental Nature Center adds second LEED Platinum building to Campus, showcasing the latest sustainability features in the green building industry.

Newport Beach, Calif., April 28, 2020 – The Environmental Nature Center's state-of-the-art ENC Nature Preschool, which opened last Fall, has been awarded Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.  The award is the highest designation available to buildings that demonstrate energy efficiency and sustainability.

At 89 points, the ENC Nature Preschool building is included in the top 1% of LEED buildings in the world. The 10,380-square-foot facility is designed to deliver nature-based education for children ages 2 ½ to 5.

“The recently completed preschool is the second building on the ENC campus to achieve LEED New Construction Platinum rating,” said Dan Heinfeld, President of LPA, the ENC’s design firm. “The project’s focus on passive, effective sustainability design is a living laboratory and educational tool for smart green design and conservation for our entire region.”

The ENC’s learning facility that opened in 2008 was the first LEED Platinum building in Orange County. It was also one of the first net-zero buildings in the region. The preschool also operates at net-zero, and seamlessly blends indoor and outdoor learning environments to connect children to nature. The nature play and education areas, developed in collaboration with educators, the community, and the ENC, expand on the sustainability focus of the original nature center.

“The ENC Nature Preschool is a model green building and nature based school, and we are enthusiastic about sharing our model with administrators from a multitude of educational institutions -- from preschools to universities.” said ENC Executive Director Bo Glover. “We are passionate about empowering people to make sustainable choices: to strengthen their communities, and literally save the world.”

The ENC Nature Preschool’s philosophy is embedded within its design. Curriculum is play-based. The design of the school encourages and nurtures the children’s inquiries and discoveries. Children’s ideas and investigations are easily implemented because their classrooms are open and flexible to allow indoor spaces to blend with the outdoors. Classrooms open to a central courtyard, which connects to the Nature Playscape. Daily hands-on experiences with nature instill a deep intuitive understanding of nature and the natural world.

“Engagement with nature and with others is where real learning occurs,” said ENC Nature Preschool Director Sue Bierlich. “Our teachers are really there to guide the learning that the children initiate themselves based on what they discover in the environment. The blending of the school’s indoor and outdoor spaces has been essential to the success of our educational philosophy, and the school’s green features are a huge draw to parents who want their children to learn in an environment with good indoor air quality, surrounded by non-toxic materials.”

The preschool was developed through an integrated design process which included LPA’s architects, landscape architects and interior designers, taking a holistic approach to addressing the educational spaces, as well as energy and water conservation.

To take advantage of the coastal climate, the original building and the pre-school were oriented to allow for natural ventilation, significantly reducing initial and long-term operating costs. Neither building uses a conventional HVAC system. Low-energy ceiling fans enhance air movement when needed. A radiant floor heating system provides low energy, mild heating as required.

Energy efficiency and water conservation are integrated into every element of the facility. The butterfly-shaped roof opens the classrooms to natural light and supports a 32KW array of photovoltaic panels, which are designed to provide 105 percent of the net energy for the preschool’s electrical needs. Rainwater is treated as an educational tool. Single-sloped roofs capture the water, which is channeled through rock basins to bioswales, where the water is naturally treated and cleaned by native plants before leaving the site to recharge aquifers.

LPA’s landscape architects worked closely with ENC’s educators and the community to develop the grounds and blend the outdoor spaces with the school’s mission. All of the plants in the new Nature Playscape that extends from the built environment are native to California. Most are locally native and do not require irrigation. There are three distinct zones, each named after a national park—Sequoia, Joshua Tree and Yosemite. Many of the rocks and natural elements are movable, allowing kids to create their own environments.

In addition to LEED Platinum, the pre-school is pursuing the Living Building Challenge’s Petal Certification, one of the first projects in the region to target both the high-level of sustainability and the healthy environment standard. The preschool was already awarded a citation from the American Institute of Architects Orange County Chapter (AIAOCC) in 2015.

For more information or to donate to the ENC Nature Preschool scholarship fund, visit or contact ENC Executive Director Bo Glover at 949-645-8489 ext. 101 or


About the ENC Nature Preschool

Founded in 2019, the ENC Nature Preschool, our community’s first nature based preschool, has a mission of providing quality early childhood education through hands-on experience with nature. The ENC Nature Preschool educates up to 72 children daily, engages parents in active learning, serves as a model nature preschool and provides a research forum on early childhood and environmental education. For more information visit The ENC Nature Preschool is located at 745 Dover Drive in Newport Beach.

About LEED Certification

The US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. LEED Platinum is the highest designation of the U.S. Green Building Council’s system for rating the efficiency, conservation and healthy environments of buildings. Since its inception in 1994, LEED has become the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building types, LEED provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership