Yellowstone Forever

September 17, 2010

Partners Support “Green” Center of Learning

Main entrance of the Old Faithful Visitor Education CenterOn August 25, 2010, the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center opened its doors to visitors for the very first time.  Yellowstone now has a special place dedicated to helping us understand and appreciate the complexity of the hydrothermal features and the volcanic activity that defines the Park. Not only are the exhibits innovative, but the building itself is a model of sustainable construction. A true public-private partnership, the Yellowstone Park Foundation contributed $15 million of the $27 million needed to create the Center and its exhibits, and roughly half of that $15 million came in the form of corporate contributions.

Major cash or in-kind donations were made by the following companies:

The Coca-Cola Foundation
Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A.
IBM Corporation 
The GE Foundation
Lockheed Martin
Sony Electronics
Tom Murphy Photography
Canon U.S.A., Inc.

During the peak summer season, the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center (OFVEC) will welcome nearly 25,000 visitors each day with interactive, hands-on exhibits. While the primary goal of the Center is learning about Yellowstone’s amazing and rare hydrothermal features, it also showcases the Park’s commitment to environmental practices.

Main exhibit areaThe OFVEC is the first visitor center in Yellowstone -- and one of the first in any national park -- to earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s Gold LEED Certification.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, and the certification is based on a system that awards points in a variety of categories such as water and energy conservation, air quality, and use of sustainable construction materials. 

Some of the “green” features of the new Center include a design that allows for a reduced heated space during winter months, low-energy lighting, and native landscaping that relies on rain and snow -- not irrigation -- for moisture. The OFVEC will use approximately 1/3 less energy than other structures of similar size and function.

Flooring, wall coverings, and exhibit components are made from raw materials such as cork, flax, and wheat, which regrow rapidly and are therefore more sustainable than many other resources. Other materials used to build the structure include certified sustainable wood, locally obtained materials, and a high percentage of recycled materials. In fact, the roof shingles may look like wood but they are actually rubber, made from recycled tires!

Check out photos of the building in progress and learn why the construction process itself demonstrated the project’s high green standards.  


A Lot of Help from Our Friends

Visitors enter the Visitor Education CenterPlans for the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center (OFVEC) have been in the works since the 1990s.  It had become clear that the existing visitor center at the time was too small to accommodate the Park’s increased level of visitation. It did nothing to enhance understanding about the natural wonders preserved in Yellowstone, and it was starting to fail structurally and mechanically. 

At that time, Yellowstone National Park approached the Yellowstone Park Foundation for support that would be necessary to make this more than the ordinary visitor center.  The Park wanted to create a true center of learning, make it large enough to accommodate exhibits, and make it a model of sustainability.  They knew that they would need to supplement federal funding in order to make this vision a reality.

The Young Scientist Room is just for kidsIn 1999, before the Foundation even went public with its ambitious $15-million capital campaign, longtime Yellowstone partner Unilever stepped in and made a large leadership gift and inspired others to give. Soon after, ConocoPhillips, a steadfast friend of the Foundation, made what was to be the largest corporate gift to the OFVEC.  A few years later, Coca-Cola demonstrated their commitment to youth education with a major gift to the project.

In 2004, a $1-million donation from Toyota to the Yellowstone Park Foundation, combined with guidance from Toyota building engineers, made it possible for Yellowstone to set an even higher standard for sustainability than originally planned. Toyota developed expertise in this area when building its own Gold LEED-Certified U.S. headquarters in 2003. At the time, it was the largest environmentally friendly commercial building in the country.

The Yellowstone Park Foundation expresses its deep gratitude to all the corporate partners for giving so generously, and for sharing our vision of an Old Faithful Visitor Education Center that is truly extraordinary.  By providing around half of the funding toward the $15-million capital campaign goal, corporate partners gave an enormous gift not just to Yellowstone, but to the American people.



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