Brock Environmental Center

Client: Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Location: Virginia Beach, Virginia

Scope: Design, Fabricate, Install - Wayfinding, ADA/Code Signage, Custom Entry Portal, Educational Panels, Experiential Graphics, Building ID, Recognition, Green Building 

Architect: SmithGroupJJR

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation chose Gropen to design, produce and install a complete environmental graphics, signage and wayfinding system for the new Brock Environmental Center– a facility aiming to be the first in Virginia with both LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge certification.


The Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach, VA was built “to engage, inform, and inspire generations about the environment and how we can all help Save the Bay.” Gropen was engaged to design and build unique interior and exterior graphic elements – a “visual experience” – to contribute to those objectives. The challenge was to adhere to the rigid building and material standards outlined for LEED and Living Building Challenge certification. This facility was conceived as a model for “green building” – completely “off the grid” and self-sustaining. Every material used in its construction needed to be documented and vetted; recycled building materials were prioritized and used wherever possible.


Gropen developed a donor recognition system using “scrap” recycled glass blanks from a local studio, which Gropen then sandblasted and paint-filled to provide a texture, depth, and color that evokes natural sea glass. For construction of an exterior main entry portal and interior light fixtures, Gropen collected and employed driftwood from the James River as the primary building material. To advance the educational goal, a focal wall was created in the building lobby showing a partial map of the United States with a watershed map and tributaries layered over top. This technique creates depth and connects the visitor back to the Bay by relating how its surroundings impact this fragile and vital environment. Interpretive panels inside and out continue to tell the story of the Foundation and their mission. A chalkboard “Freedom of Speech” wall provides a fun, interactive component that encourages visitors to share their experiences and ideas. Dimensional building identification and colorful, grass-themed ADA signage completes the package.