Desert Living Center & Gardens at Springs Preserve

Las Vegas, Nevada

The Springs Preserve is a public/private partnership organized to manage the rich cultural and biological resources of the 180-acre Big Springs Archaeological District. The Preserve is located in the heart of Las Vegas, and is considered to be the city’s birthplace. It contains a 10,000-year-old physical record of the biological, geological, and cultural history of the Las Vegas Valley. Additionally, it houses an active water resources management facility which is a critical link in the delivery of potable water to much of the metropolitan area.

Master Plan

LGA worked with The Las Vegas Valley Water District, The Springs Preserve Foundation and area citizens to develop a Conceptual Plan and process which ultimately determined the project’s programming needs. The Conceptual Plan summarizes results of a community-based design process which guides future preservation, management, and interpretation of the Springs Preserve. Among the features of this unique natural area are an Interpretive Visitors Center, Desert Living Center focusing on sustainability, Desert Botanical and Conservation Gardens, Walking Trails, recreated Cauldron Spring Pool, Water Reservoir, and future Nevada State Museum.

Construction of the Conceptual Plan creates an atmosphere of learning for Valley residents to achieve water conservation and sustainable design in their daily lives. It also promotes a conservation agenda that embraces the desert environment as a special place to live.


Las Vegas Valley Water District/Springs Preserve


180 Acres


MP - $250 Million
Waterworks - $35 Million
DLC & Gardens - $49 Million

Services Performed

Community Outreach
Community Visioning
Public Use Master Planning
Interpretive Planning
LEED Consultation
Wetland Restoration
Trails Planning
Architecture/Interior Design
Engineering, Exhibit Design
Wastewater Re-use Design
Renewable Energy Development
Construction Management
Docent Training


Prime Architect

Children around a green exhibit at the Springs Preserve.The gardens leading to the Waterworks Facility at the Springs Preserve.Children around a garbage truck exhibit inside the Springs Preserve, designed by LGA Architecture.

Desert Living Center & Gardens

The Desert Living Center is an action-based public outreach and applied research facility designed to “promote sustainable life in the Mojave Desert.” Through dynamic, ongoing education programs, the Center serves as a catalyst for individual and community change from being “in the desert” to being “of the desert.”

The five acres of conservation gardens demonstrate desert-appropriate water and energy-conserving design solutions by applying current knowledge and technologies. Garden exhibits are used to further Mojave education, conservation and protection, planting design, landscape lighting, and “how-to” areas for irrigation and planting. Also included is a constructed wetland for treatment of all gray and black water for the entire Preserve site, to be reused in the Desert Living Center toilets and gardens.

Jointly, the Desert Living Center and Gardens received LEED Platinum Certification with specific objectives met related to sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

Design Principles

The basic design of the Desert Living Center reflects the local environment at every opportunity, beginning with solar orientation to optimize the benefits of the sun as a lighting and heating source. It continues underground by utilizing the earth as a thermal insulator for the structures by integrating the buildings into the land. It then carries above ground where the mass and thickness of walls assist in protecting heat gain and loss. Thermal mass is achieved through the use of rammed earth and cast-in-place concrete construction. Additionally, through the use of straw bale construction, the buildings are able to achieve very high insulation values, which protect the inside environment from the intense Las Vegas heat. The five-building facility utilizes long roof overhangs to protect the buildings from summer heat gain while allowing the low sun of winter to warm the interior spaces. Cool towers and courtyard designs are intrinsic to reducing heating and cooling loads.

Technologies for the Desert Living Center are incorporated throughout the facility, but are not a primary focus in the design. Due to the rapid change of technological advances, a product that may be cutting-edge today could be outdated in two years. The technologies that are used work as a complement to the basic sustainable design principles. These include automated window openers to take advantage of natural ventilation, advanced cooling strategies, radiant floor heating systems, light photocell sensors, solar hot water heaters, and reclaimed water systems, to name a few.

Waterworks Facility

We provided architectural design and consulting services on this $26 million multifaceted project located at the Springs Preserve, consisting of a 39,300 s.f. pump station, a 20,000,000-gallon reservoir with rooftop parking, an Orientation Plaza, and the main Preserve entry drive from Valley View Boulevard.

As visitors enter from the west, a winding drive provides the arrival and decompression from the busy city surroundings to the native landscape and beauty of the Mojave Desert. From the rooftop parking deck, visitors head to the Orientation Plaza, the beginning of the Preserve experience.

The tri-level pump station incorporates sustainable elements and an interpretive tour where visitors are offered a spectacular view into the 300-foot-long pump station, as well as the 20,000,000-gallon water tank. The pump station also houses a laboratory where various water tests are performed.


  • 2009 Earth Award – Building and Managers Association, Nevada
  • 2008 Large Public Project of the Year – Las Vegas Business Press, Green Awards
  • 2008 Construction Award, Project Over $10 Million – CSI Las Vegas
  • 2008 Excellence in Design Award – Environmental Design + Construction Magazine
  • 2007 High Performance Building Award – Sustainable Buildings Industry Council
  • 2007 Best Public Green Building Project in Nevada – Southwest Contractor Magazine
  • 2007 Best Landscape/Hardscape Project in Nevada – Southwest Contractor Magazine
  • 2007 Project of the Year – American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), Nevada
  • 2007 Award of Excellence for Commercial, Retail, & Mixed-Use – ASLA, Nevada
  • 2007 Honor Award, Built Category – American Institute of 
  • 2007 Best Public Project over $10 Million – Southwest Contractor Magazine
  • 2007 Best Civil/Infrastructure Project in Nevada – “Southwest Contractor” Awards
  • 2007 Citation Award, Built Category (For the Orientation Plaza) – AIA Nevada
  • 2007 Merit Award, Built Category – American Institute of Architects, Nevada
  • 2003 Mohave Award for Environmentalism – Associated General Contractors
  • 2000 Merit Award – American Society of Landscape Architects
  • 1999 Citation Award, Unbuilt Category – American Institute of Architects, Nevada