(June 6, 2016) I’ll never forget the 2008 EF3 tornado that killed four boys and injured 48 others at the Mid-America Council’s Little Sioux Scout Ranch just north of Omaha. As an Eagle Scout and a member of Lincoln’s Boy Scouts of America Cornhusker Council, I am from a family of Scouts. The organization has helped shape the person I am and how I approach life and my career.
So when the Cornhusker Council approached HDR about helping it design a new safe room and education center, we felt compelled to get involved—so much so that we donated our design services. We also helped with grant-writing and fundraising, which led to large contributions from Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and Nebraska Environmental Trust (NET), as well as a gift from the Glenn H. Korff Foundation.
Located in southeastern Richardson County 10 miles south of Humboldt, not only was the Cornhusker Council’s former meeting space unequipped to operate year-round, but there was no tornado shelter to speak of. As a result, the primary goal for the new building was to provide a tornado shelter. Another goal was to provide an education center for the Boy Scout troops hosting camps there.
Eight years later, the Cornhusker Council, Boy Scouts of America Safe Room and Education Center is hosting its first campers this week. The coolest part? The readily available hands-on education about energy conservation. The building is pursuing LEED certification and was designed to be Net-Zero, meaning that it generates as much energy as it uses. The walls and roof are highly insulated, and there is a geothermal heat pump. It has its own windmill and photo-voltaic array (solar cells) to generate electricity. And it generates its own hot water from the sun, which can be used in the winter for heat.
On the interior, there is an abundance of natural light. Sustainable features include recycled glass countertops, cork flooring, and tack-able felt on the walls. The 12 points of the Boy Scout Law are embedded into the floor, and a planned educational mural on sustainability will serve as a focal point of the space.
It will serve between 200 and 250 children per session, and it's open year-round to all Boy Scout councils, as well as to the public for retreats and events.
I can’t wait to experience the memories that will be made in this beautiful, safe, and educational building.