On Saturday the group once again escaped the conference room and the city, heading out to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Annapolis, Maryland. The Foundation is headquarted in the Philip Merrill Environmental Center, a building that is as much of an attraction as the organization it houses. The PSIGCC participants had the opportunity of exploring this remarkable building, which was the first in the world to earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s coveted LEED Platinum certification for its sustainability and energy efficiency. From unfinished, unpainted interiors to passive solar and geothermal heating, waterless toilets, recycled materials and low-energy lighting, the Philip Merrill center is a testament to the possibilities of green design. And as Rick, our tour guide pointed out on several occasions, energy efficient design does not necessarily need to be high-tech; in fact, some of the building’s best innovations are delightfully simple. As a case in point, he noted that overheating in one glass-encased conference room was solved not by $10,000 in computer-modelled airflow changes, but by a simple awning.
From the building tour we headed out on the water – Brad the captain and his wife Claire used the boat ride to demonstrate crab pots, lecture on eutrophication and pollution in the Bay and point out unique characteristics of the Chesapeake watershed. In particular they focused on the blue crab as a bellweather animal of the Bay. This iconic animal has suffered from waterway erosion, habitat loss and increased turbidity; its crashing population represents the overall health of this remarkable estuary. After a picnic lunch on the water and time spent measuring salinity and dissolved oxygen in the Bay, participants returned to the Philip Merrill center for a concluding presentation on local stream fauna and water quality.