Government Canyon Visitors Center

San Antonio, Texas

The Government Canyon Visitors Center in San Antonio, Texas sits at the mouth of a canyon, forming a gateway to the 8,600-acre Government Canyon State Natural Area.  The structures on the site make extensive use of local and regional materials while evoking the historic uses of the former ranch.

In 2007, Encotech provided Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Engineering design for this state-of-the-art project which included an 800 square foot interpretive center, an outdoor pavilion, classroom space, a gift shop, 1,000 square feet of offices, an amphitheater and trails.  In addition to the visitor center amenities, the design encompassed two 1,500 square foot residences for park personnel, and a maintenance facility and garage.

The project’s budget was stretched by making the exhibition pavilion naturally ventilated, which shaved 35 percent off mechanical system demands, and moving all circulation space to the exterior.  The enclosed buildings design included standard split systems for heating and cooling, with the compressor outside, and the fan inside.  To further reduce energy use, the project included a lighting control system with photocells, occupancy sensors, and a solar photovoltaic power source for the water tower’s pumping system.

While LEED® certification was not a project requirement, Encotech worked with the project team to incorporate a number of sustainable design elements, including an intricate rainwater collection system.  Rainwater is collected through rain gutters and then fed down a rain chain into large cement planters, where the water drains through the gavel to an underground cistern.  A solar-powered pump brings the water to a tower and then routes it to the irrigation system minimizing run-off and contaminants, and reducing the use of ground water.

2007 Top Ten Green Project award from the American Institute of Architects’ Committee on the Environment