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Costs Rise for Nature House

New Strawberry Festival at Reston Town Center will help raise cash to fully fund project.

Construction of Reston Association’s new Nature House is costing more than originally anticipated, causing RA’s fundraising arm to increase efforts to fully fund the project.

Nature House, which will be built on a 72-acre piece of land off Glade Road, will allow RA to expand the range of its nature programs and provide Reston with a visitors center focused on the community’s environment.

When the project was originally conceived in 2001, RA estimated it would cost $700,000 to build. A new estimate has not yet been announced, but RA officials said they expect it to be substantially higher. Construction is scheduled to begin on the project this summer.

Karen Monaghan, RA’s director of communication, said the organization anticipated costs would rise slightly over time and that construction of the project will still begin on time.

THE PRIMARY REASON costs have increased is because construction material prices have skyrocketed, specifically the cost of steel, said Joe Ritchey, president of Friends of Reston for Community Projects, which is RA’s fundraising arm in charge of securing funding for the Nature House.

Also, RA decided to spend the extra money to ensure that Nature House would be an environmentally-friendly building, certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. To be a LEED-certified project, only renewable, nontoxic and recycled construction materials will be used.

The Nature House design also incorporates energy-efficient measures, such as a ground source heat pump system, radiant flooring, “smart” controls for heating and cooling, and passive solar features.

Being a green building is more expensive, but worth the added cost because it will guarantee Reston remains at the forefront of environmental protection, said Katie Shaw, RA’s environmental education manager whose office will eventually be located in Nature House.

“Reston has always been a model for the world and this would let us be a hallmark place for green buildings in the region,” Shaw said. “Our mission is to teach about the environment. We want to be friendly to it.”

Green buildings cost more up front, but actually save money over time because of energy-saving measures, Monaghan said.

Because the Nature House will be the size of a residential unit, but will be a commercial building, its cost exceeds that of comparably-sized buildings. It must be compliant with the Americans with Disability Act and must have include a sprinkler system. Installation of fire hydrants alone, which are required for commercial buildings, comprise $12,000 of the project’s price tag.

TO ADDRESS the increased cost of Nature House, Ritchey and others on the Friends of Reston board are working to secure the remaining funding needed.

“The board is 100 percent committed to raising all funds for Nature House,” Ritchey said. “We’re sure that we and the community will respond to our request for help as they have in the past.”

Coinciding with the Friends of Reston’s stepped-up fundraising efforts, a Strawberry Festival is being planned to help RA meet its goal of fully funding the project.

The Strawberry Festival, which will be held at Clyde’s at Reston Town Center on May 6 and 7, is expected to raise thousands for Nature House.

“It’s kind of a ‘Nature comes back alive after winter’ kind of thing,” Ritchey said. “It’s an Oktoberfest-type event, but in spring.”

Tom Meyer, executive vice president of Clyde’s Restaurant Group, said the restaurant likes helping out the community, but likes to lend it support in creative, fun endeavors.

“The Clyde’s Strawberry Festival is going to rock Reston Town Center,” he said.

If the Strawberry Festival is a success, organizers said it may become an annual event at Reston Town Center.