KIMBALL JUNCTION — Global environmental advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and television fix-it guy Bob Vila were on hand Sunday evening to celebrate the grand opening of a new Kimball Junction environmental education center its creators are calling the "greenest building in Utah."

The Swaner EcoCenter is a 10,000-square-foot complex at the edge of a 1,200-acre preservation land trust straddling I-80 in Snyderville Basin. The building hosts a slew of high-tech, high-efficiency accoutrements including solar panels, a water reclamation system and recycled and eco-friendly building materials. Designed by Salt Lake architect Soren Simonsen, the building is in line to achieve the highest LEED building rating, Platinum, issued by the U.S. Green Building Council. Simonsen said the structure is symbolic of the elements of nature.

"Bringing an ecosystem to life in architectural design is an ambitious goal, one I believe we accomplished," Simonsen said. "This building embodies earth, air, water and sunlight and is a symbol of the human connection to the environment."

The center will play host to ele-

mentary students from Summit County and the Wasatch Front as part of the group's (also called the Swaner EcoCenter) goal of "promoting environmental awareness and respect for the natural world ..."

Interactive lesson stations are located throughout the building, and the nature preserve offers a year-round outdoor learning environment programming that is currently geared to coincide with state curriculum guidelines for fourth- and fifth-graders, with expansion plans in the works.

Donors and companies involved in developing the project gathered to toast the newly completed structure and were treated to a keynote address by Kennedy, who lauded all involved for the environmentally responsible project and said the country could achieve an entirely new level of energy independence by spending money on renewable sources.

"We can achieve free energy forever," Kennedy said. "$650 billion will buy what we need — if we have the leadership to give us that energy."

Vila said he and Kennedy are currently involved in a television project called "Our Green House" that will feature the 13-episode "green" renovation of a property that Kennedy owns starting next fall.

E-mail: [email protected]