Old Faithful Visitor Education Center

CTA Architects Engineers provided full A/E design services from pre-design through construction completion for this new facility that replaced the existing Mission 66 era visitor center. The building accommodates peak loads of 25,000 visitors each day in July and August. Design inspiration for the new Visitor Education Center was taken from the Arts and Crafts style and the Adirondack camp influence of the Old Faithful Inn, with sensitivity to the view sheds of the Old Faithful Geyser, the adjacent Old Faithful Inn, and the Old Faithful Historic District. The resulting design was a collaborative effort between the architecture and the interpretive programs.

The new building includes a multi-story lobby/information center, a geothermal exhibit area, a 232-seat auditorium, the Yellowstone Association Bookstore, a research library, high-volume public restrooms, classroom space, and NPS administrative offices.

Weatherization strategy for the building envelope utilizes an “out-sulation” strategy that moves the entire insulation system for walls and roof to the exterior side of the structure, resulting in a continuous air barrier, vapor barrier, and insulation system. A cold roof design mitigates ice dams on the roof (where six feet of annual snowfall is typical) and also shades the building roof envelope in summer.

Natural daylighting is maximized in occupied spaces. Artificial lighting is controlled with occupant sensors, dual-level switching, and master control programming. The high alpine climate of the Old Faithful area experiences substantial temperature swing days. Night flush is utilized to cool the building on summer nights. A natural convection system ventilates the lobby, which spans 2,500 sq. ft. and is 60 ft. tall with automated operable clerestory windows and a damper louver system at floor level. This convection system is tied into the energy management system to coordinate with the mechanical system and allow natural ventilation when exterior conditions and inside temperatures allow.

The mechanical system is variable air volume with high-efficiency propane fueled boilers. The hydronic pumps are variable speed. This system facilitates zoning the building such that in winter, with decreased public visitation and staff, areas of the building are “idled” and maintained at lower temperatures. Mechanical ventilation and cooling utilizes an outside air economizer, bringing direct and indirect evaporative cooling online sequentially as needed. CO sensors dictate the need for ventilation air in the theater, lobby and exhibit hall spaces.

CTA provided architectural, civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, fire protection, landscape, interior design, historic architectural, audio visual, and building commissioning services for the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center from conceptual design through construction administration and warranty phases of the project. This project achieved a LEED Gold Certification and was awarded the Responsible Development Award from Mountain Living in 2011.