Sustainable Landscapes & Buildings Project
Making decisions that protect and nourish our environment and our community — sustainable choices — is Queens Botanical Garden’s most important mission.
The Garden teaches and practices sustainability in design, construction, and operations support; environmental stewardship; long-term financial viability; and the health of visitors, staff, and the community.
The Garden’s Master Plan of 2001 launched the Sustainable Landscapes and Buildings Project. As the name implies, the project is much more than buildings. It includes new plants, many of which are native species; bioswales to collect storm water and reduce wear-and-tear on New York City’s combined sewer system; water recycling systems; the new Horticulture/Maintenance Building; the revolutionary Visitor & Administration Center; and the transformation of our existing parking lot into a 125-space parking garden which began in September 2008.
On September 27, 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Borough President Helen Marshall, whose office has been the lead supporter of the Sustainable Buildings and Landscape Project, and numerous other dignitaries officially opened our Visitor & Administration Center, the most advanced green building in New York City. It was landmark event for the Garden as Mayor Bloomberg cited the Visitor & Administration Center as a major asset in the city’s PlaNYC 2030, the ambitious program to cut New York City’s carbon emissions by 30%.
Since the opening, the Visitor & Administration Center has received a lot of attention from the press. One such example was Fred Bernstein’s review in the February 2008 issue of Metropolis. The project has also received a number of awards. Click here to view.
Visitor & Administration Center
- 15,831 square feet;
- Contains an auditorium, reception/gallery spaces, meeting rooms, public restrooms, and offices;
- Construction systems: steel piles, steel structure with pre-cast concrete planks, poured in place concrete
- Achieved LEED™ (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System, the highest possible certification
- Received Green Building Design Competition Award jointly sponsored by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Rainwater feature, entry plaza, and terrace provide places for gathering and celebrating water
Architect Joan Krevlin of BKSK Architects, designed the Visitor & Administration Center as a veritable encyclopedia of building techniques that conserve water, tap renewable energy, and work with nature to mitigate global warming. The building’s auditorium has a planted green roof that reduces urban heat-island effect, the phenomenon of buildings radiating heat at night, and minimizes storm water run-off, a serious problem in New York City. It has solar panels that generate 17% of the building’s electricity and a geothermal heating and cooling system that uses 55-degree water pumped from an aquifer to maintain the building’s climate. It also has two water recycling systems, one that uses rain water to fill a man-made watercourse and fountain, and a second system that cleans “graywater” from the building’s sinks and dishwasher for reuse in public toilets.
Water is conserved elsewhere too. The building has two compost toilets for the Garden’s staff that use three ounces of water with each flush, rather than the typical three and a half gallons used by conventional toilets. Contents of the toilets go to a tank where microbes consume the waste, saving wear-and-tear on the City’s overburdened sewage system. With compost toilets, waterless urinals, and sink faucets that shut off automatically, the Visitor & Administration Center consumes 82% less water than a conventional building of the same size.
The building’s windows open for ventilation and the exterior is covered with horizontal wooden slats called brise-soleil that are a staple of architecture in hot climates. The distance between the wooden slats is pegged to a building’s latitude: during summer, when the sun is high in the sky, the brise-soleil shades the building’s interior; during winter, the sun’s low trajectory means light can pass through the slats to help warm the rooms inside.
Horticulture/Maintenance Building details:
- 6,229 square feet
- Program: offices, equipment/vehicle bays, maintenance/grounds workshops
- Construction system: pre-manufactured building with steel structure, corrugated metal panels, corrugated translucent panels to maximize day lighting, and Forest Stewardship Council certified cedar siding
Collections & Landscapes details:
New collections include the Plants in Community gardens, which present plant species native to the New York area arranged according to their botanical families. Featured families include Asclepiadaceae, Berberidaceae, Compositae, Fabaceae, Liliaceae, Polypodiaceae and Rosaceae.
Other new landscapes are both botanical collections and functional parts of the Garden’s water conservation and storm water management systems. These include bioswales, a green roof, a cleansing biotope, and a constructed wetland.