Urban Ecology Center

The Urban Ecology Center is an accessible role model for other institutions seeking to incorporate sustainable principles into their own construction projects.  By removing many of the typical barriers to the outdoors, the Center encourages spontaneous interaction and blurs the boundary between inside and out.

The building is oriented to maximize solar gain in spite of its small site, and it makes use of sustainably-harvested wood. Innovative stormwater management strategies ensure that rainwater falling on the site is visibly collected and reused.  An outdoor garden features a wide variety of native plants and grasses, and the Center is powered by the largest non-commercial photovoltaic array in the state. 


Milwaukee, WI


19,000 sf


Completed 2004

A National Model for Sustainability Education

Starting from modest origins as a neighborhood-based non-profit organization housed in a double wide trailer, construction of a new facility has allowed the Urban Ecology Center to expand its offering of innovative environmental programs for young people and adults. Each year, over 15,000 students from 30 urban schools explore the ecology of their local community with hands-on outdoor learning experiences through their nationally recognized Neighborhood Environmental Education Project (NEEP).


Indoor / Outdoor Connections

One of the things that really works well with the Center is its connection to the outdoors. Visitors and school groups use the balconies, tower, roof garden, and other outdoor spaces for classes or spontaneous interaction. Many of the typical barriers to the outdoors have been diminished.


A Community Recreation Hub

Built along an abandoned railroad track which now serves as bicycle pathway through the city, the Center has become a community recreation hub. TKWA designed the Center to accommodate storage for kayak and bicycle rentals. A climbing wall is integrated along the side of the 50-foot observation tower and outdoor classroom.


Sustainability on a Budget

The Urban Ecology Center is an accessible role model for other institutions seeking to incorporate sustainable strategies into their own construction projects. It was completed on a scale and within a budget that can be achieved using practical, repeatable design ideas and techniques.

2007 AIA Merit Award
American Institute of Architects, Wisconsin

2004 SE2 Merit Award
Wisconsin Green Building Alliance

2004 Leading Edge Award
Wisconsin Commercial Real Estate Women