Katherine and Fred Buffett Fontenelle Forest Learning Center

Drawing our natural world into the facility through large, expansive windows as well as an indoor walking trail, this project harmonizes nature and architecture.
Type of Project

Cultural and Libraries, Education


Bellevue, NE

Total Size

26,000 SF




Ken Lathrum & Associates
Farris Engineering


W. Boyd Jones Construction

  • Sustainable designs
  • Kitchen and dining facilities
  • Visitor center
  • Interactive learning center
  • Gateway to the forest
  • Energy savings
  • Parking lot

Bringing Nature and Architecture Together

Years of planning and research went into making this new 26,000 SF facility fit specific needs and goals. This structure draws in the surrounding Fontenelle Forest through large windows around the structure. An indoor “walking trail” encompasses natural exhibits and interactive learning opportunities for children and adults. Rooms accommodate meetings and large events such as weddings, and there is a separate kitchen to support these events. Administration offices and boardrooms are on the lower level and designed to also have expansive views of the forest. To reduce the environmental impact, the following energy conservation measures were integrated into this design:

  • A geothermal heating/cooling system using underground temperatures for climate control, minimizing reliance on fossil fuels
  • Double and triple-glazed windows filled with insulating gas, treated with low-E coating
  • Extensive natural lighting, with solar tube skylights that filter in sunlight
  • High-efficiency, motion-sensing lighting
  • Low-flow, automatic shut-off water fixtures
  • Durable roofing, siding, and flooring materials that reduce life-cycle waste
  • Southwest orientation for passive solar heating in the winter, and roof overhangs that limit heat gain in the summer