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Queens Botanical Garden

Flushing, New York

By Joann Gonchar, AIA

Rainy days are typically not ideal for outdoor activities. But a steady drizzle provides the perfect conditions for a trip to the new visitor and administration center at the Queens Botanical Garden (GreenSource, April 2008, page 74) in New York City. When it rains, water cascades from a folded canopy over the building’s entry plaza and falls into a catchment area below. This dramatic display is one indication that water—and the infrastructure that carries it—were key considerations for the design team in shaping the center and the surrounding landscape.

Queens Botanical Garden
Photo © Jeff Godberg/ESTO
Queens Botanical Garden, Flushing, New York

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LOCATION: Flushing, New York (Flushing Meadows)
GROSS SQUARE FOOTAGE: 15,831 ft2 (1,470 m2)
COST: $12 million (building and adjacent landscaping only)
COMPLETED: September 2007
ANNUAL PURCHASED ENERGY USE (BASED ON SIMULATION): 41 kBtu/ft2 (469 MJ/m2), percent reduction from base case
PROGRAM: Visitor center, auditorium, administrative offices

Leed Scores

OWNER: The Queens Botanical Garden
LANDSCAPE: Atelier Dreiseitl, Conservation Design Forum
ENGINEERS: Weidlinger Associates (structural and civil), P.A. Collins (MEP)
LIGHTING: Kugler Associates
ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANT: Viridian Engineering & Environmental
GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Stonewall Contracting

In addition to the winglike canopy, the center is made up of a two-story building clad in western red cedar, housing a reception area, meeting rooms, and offices. A partially underground reinforced-concrete structure contains an auditorium and is covered with a green roof planted with sedum, grasses, and perennial flowers. Separating the two elements is a water-filled channel that visitors encounter as they enter the building, passing over it on a small bridge to reach the reception area.

The channel is part of a much larger and very visible stormwater management system that collects runoff, cleanses it with aquatic plants, and keeps it out of the city’s overtaxed combined sewer-and-wastewater infrastructure. Less conspicuous is the center’s graywater recycling system, which, along with other conservation strategies, makes the facility 82 percent more water efficient than a standard office building of the same size.

Naturally, water was not the only concern of the structural team. The project is LEED Platinum-certified, a status it could not have achieved without features like a thermally efficient building envelope, a 16-Kw photovoltaic array, office space largely illuminated by daylight, and carefully selected materials. However, the desire to make the water-management cycle experiential clearly provided the project’s organizing theme. According to Joan Krevlin, partner at BKSK Architects, the project’s New York City–based design firm, the building and the landscape are arranged around water, so that “visitors are always crossing it, seeing it, and experiencing it.”

“in addition to the project’s significant attention to stormwater management, rainwater collection, and graywater [recycling], water was also used as a strong design element to unify the building and landscape, raising people’s awareness of the water cycle at the site and building scale.”





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This article appeared in the July 2008 print issue of GreenSource Magazine

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