Chicago’s New Plant Conservation Center Showcases Green Design

September 10, 2009 by

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With a bold goal to “Save the Plants, Save the Planet,” the Chicago Botanic Garden has scheduled the opening of the Plant Science Center for members on September 22, and for the general public on September 23.

“One-third of the world’s plants could become extinct in the next 50 years. This is more than a building; it represents the Garden’s commitment to solving plant conservation challenges through research and education. We depend on plants for food, clothing, shelter, fuel, medicine and oxygen,” said Sophia Siskel, president and CEO of the Chicago Botanic Garden.

This 38,000-square-foot, LEED-certified building will serve as a laboratory and research facility for nearly 200 scientists, research assistants, collaborators, interns and graduate students.  The building is designed to earn a gold LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Situated on 4.5-foot pillars, the building is surrounded by and built over a Rainwater Glen that will collect and filter stormwater runoff from the building and adjacent parking areas.

The Rainwater Glen will surround the building to collect rain water draining from nearby parking areas and filter it within the Garden’s plant community. The green roof garden system holds rainwater to be used later by the plants. Native plants were used in landscaping, reducing the need for irrigation by half, and no potable water is used for irrigation. In addition, the building will use 30 percent less water through selection of plumbing fixtures (low-flow plumbing fixtures and valves).

The 16,000-square-foot green roof garden features a semi-intensive, or intermediate, green roof. The green roof requires more maintenance, costs more, and weighs more than an extensive roof, but it has more design possibilities, and the deeper substrate allows for more plant variety. Monitoring equipment will help scientists measure the green roof’s insulating effect on the building and other factors that will help them determine the best plants to grow on green roofs.

Inside, interactive exhibit stations line the viewing gallery, engaging visitors in the fascinating and diverse world of plants and inspiring them to get involved with plant conservation. The exhibits explain the critical work scientists are carrying out in each of the research laboratories.

The Botanic Garden offers an extensive online library of plant information of interest to urban gardeners, including helpful tips and techniques such as How to Start a Small Space Vegetable Garden, and for those in the the Chicago area, classes such as Urban Composting and Organic Edible Container Gardening.

Images courtesy of the Plant Science Center at Chicago Botanic Garden.

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