Sully Woodlands Stewardship Education Center Planned

Sully Woodlands Stewardship Education Center Planned

State-of-the-art building slated for E.C. Lawrence Park

The energy-efficient building will be constructed of reclaimed wood to reduce its carbon footprint.

The energy-efficient building will be constructed of reclaimed wood to reduce its carbon footprint.


An interior view of the education building planned for Chantilly’s E.C. Lawrence Park.

The Fairfax County Park Authority plans to construct a groundbreaking and innovative new building in Chantilly’s Ellanor C. Lawrence Park. It will be called the Sully Woodlands Stewardship Education Center, and details were presented during a recent meeting of the Sully District Council of Citizens Assns.

“It’s to educate the public about how to preserve wildlife and nature and let them know what’s in the Sully Woodlands,” said Sully District Park Authority representative Maggie Godbold. “We’re very excited about it.”

Sully Woodlands is a collection of parks – including E.C. Lawrence – in western Fairfax County. And this structure will be built according to the rigorous, sustainable-design standards of the Living Building Challenge. It’s an international certification to create carbon-negative buildings that generate more energy and usable water than they consume.

“It will be the first building like this in Fairfax County—and one of only three or four on the whole East Coast—and 50 in the entire world,” said Godbold. “And we’ll educate people about it, as well.”

The building will be 7,000 square feet, with two multipurpose spaces – one enclosed and one open – plus an education kiosk and kitchen, There’ll be learning pods for STEAM education and nature play, an animal enclosure, a solar picnic table and a future amphitheater. And the floor will have a map of Sully Woodlands so visitors may see how all the parks connect.

Solar panels will power the building and produce 105 percent of its energy needs. Other, green features include a rainwater-reuse system, radiant heating, passive cooling (large doors, fans and transom vents), and a wastewater-treatment system. Any extra water will be treated on site and returned to the natural, water cycle.

Envisioned as a gateway to the greater Sully Woodlands, the building, itself, will be constructed of reclaimed wood, cast concrete and corrugated metal to reduce its carbon footprint. And it will rely solely on renewable energy and will operate pollution-free.

“We’re working with the Fairfax County DEQ [Department of Environmental Quality], and the boiler room will be open so people can see what’s going on [to save energy],” said Godbold. “We’ll also have charging stations there for electronic bikes.”

She said the structure will be “nestled in the woods and will have a lovely, shaded, porch area. There are trails and places where kids can get outside and get some exercise, and the facility will be available to school groups to visit – and it’s all free.” But in the evenings, she added, the building may be rented for events.

Eager to see this whole project take shape, Godbold said, “We’re working on getting our permits and construction documents now. We hope to have construction start in mid- to late spring, and we’ll have a virtual groundbreaking.” It’s estimated to take a year to complete and be ready to open in spring 2022.