Posts Tagged ‘Public Gardens’

Parking Gardens

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Parking lots make great settings for film noirs—I’ll give them that. But they’re bad for the environment. Their extensive paved and impervious surfaces bake in the sun, exacerbating the urban heat island effect. Virtually all the rain that falls on them is funneled into storm sewers, polluting local waterways. And they’re some of the ugliest places on the planet.

Public gardens are leading the way to greener parking lots—parking gardens—with plantings that absorb rain and prevent runoff and solar arrays that produce energy while providing shade. (more…)

Living Building Challenge

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

The following was published as part of my regular “Growing Greener” column in Public Garden magazine, Vol. 25 No. 1 (2010).  Public Garden is the flagship publication of the American Public Gardens Association. In “Growing Greener” I answer sustainability-related questions from public garden staff.

Q: What is the Living Building Challenge, and how is it different from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system?

A: By the sound of it, you’d think the goal of the Living Building Challenge—to encourage the creation of “living buildings” that “function as elegantly and efficiently as a flower”—was tailor made for public gardens. Although it grew out of the Cascadia Region Green Building Council, a chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, it is designed to push the industry—and LEED itself—to a whole new level. In the words of one observer, the Living Building Challenge makes LEED’s incremental system of credits that get tallied up to determine whether a project earns Certified, Silver, Gold, or top Platinum rating “look like something drawn up by Exxon.” (more…)

Green Exhibits

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

The following was published as part of my regular “Growing Greener” column in Public Garden magazine, Vol. 24 No. 1 (2009). Public Garden is the flagship publication of the American Public Gardens Association. In “Growing Greener” I answer sustainability-related questions from public garden staff.

Q: What is a green exhibit? How green does it have to be?

A: A green exhibit isn’t necessarily one that tells visitors how your garden is becoming more sustainable and how they can, too (though that’s a good idea!). Exhibits of all types and sizes can be beautiful expressions of sustainability. As for how green to go, you should make your exhibits as green as you can, and keep growing greener.

By now, most people in the public garden world are familiar with the LEED guidelines, performance benchmarks, and rating system for green buildings. The same basic guidelines can also be used for creating a green exhibit. (more…)

Growing Greener: The Sustainable Sites Initiative

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

The following was published as part of my regular “Growing Greener” column in Public Garden magazine, Vol. 23 No. 3/4 (2008). Public Garden is the flagship publication of the American Public Gardens Association. In “Growing Greener” I answer sustainability-related questions from public garden staff.

Q: What is the Sustainable Sites Initiative, and how can public gardens use it?

A: In the past several years, the LEEDR program of the U.S. Green Building Council has become synonymous with sustainable design. The USGBC awards four levels of LEED certification for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. This rating system has provided targets for public gardens and other institutions striving to go green.

One limitation of LEED, especially for public gardens, is that it currently is concerned primarily with buildings. It’s not surprising, then, that two public gardens, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden, have teamed up with the American Society of Landscape Architects to produce the Sustainable Sites Initiative, the first program to develop guidelines and standards for sustainable landscapes. (more…)

Greenest of the Green

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Kudos to the Shangri La Botanical Gardens in Orange, Texas, whose new interpretive center has been chosen as one of the American Institute of Architects’ Top Ten Green Projects of 2009. The Orientation Center contains an exhibit hall, theater, interactive children’s garden, classroom and exhibition greenhouses, and a water demonstration garden that shows how plants filter pollution from water, as well as a café, garden store, volunteer center, and administrative spaces. There are also several “outbuildings,” including a Nature Discovery Lab and pavilion, outdoor classrooms, a bird blind, and a boat house, deep in a cypress swamp. You can find lots of information on the LEED Platinum facility, including photos, on the AIA website.

Happy Birthday to Kew

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Several of the world’s greatest public gardens are celebrating birthdays this year. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London turns 250. Missouri Botanical Garden, the oldest botanic garden in continuous operation in the U.S., is celebrating its 150th birthday; to help celebrate the occasion, the American Public Gardens Association is holding its annual meeting in St. Louis this summer. Meanwhile, the Singapore Botanic Gardens is also celebrating its (ready for the Word of the Day?) sesquicentennial.

You can find my somewhat quirky take on the history of botanic gardens here

Creating Science Whizzes

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Good news for public gardens, zoos, and other places where visitors engage in “informal learning” about science. (For those new to the jargon, informal in this context basically means outside the classroom.) According to a new report sponsored by the National Science Foundation, “there is abundant evidence that these experiences contribute to people’s knowledge and interest in science.” What’s more, “they may also support academic gains for young people from groups historically underrepresented in science,” like minorities and women.

The report has some useful recommendations for people who create exhibits and other informal science programs: The exhibits should be interactive and designed with specific learning goals in mind. They should encourage visitors to relate what they have learned to their prior experiences and interests, and when possible the exhibits should be rooted in scientific problems, ideas, and activities that are meaningful to their communities.

Professionals who evaluate informal science programs for a living will be pleased to hear that there are some useful ways to measure “outcomes” (more jargon, meaning  ways to assess how well people have learned the science lessons the exhibits are intended to teach). But, sorry, to learn what these are, you have to shell out the $42.26 for the report.

You’d think that studies paid for by our tax dollars would be available for free on the internet. But I guess that kind of learning is a bit too informal for the NSF.

Public Garden Trend Alert Con’t

Friday, September 19th, 2008

The University of British Columbia Botanical Garden has a new forest canopy walkway that enables visitors to explore the treetop biodiversity of the lush Pacific Coastal Rainforest. Continuing a trend at other public gardens, it’s reportedly the first canopy walkway in Canada. 

Public Garden Trend Alert — Teen Magnets?

Monday, August 18th, 2008

How do you get teenagers to come to public gardens, no less make things interesting once they’re there? These have long been vexing questions.

In the olden (pre texting and Facebook) days, intrepid educators at the University of Oxford Botanic Garden produced an exhibit on plants associated with such teen concerns as birth control and mind-bending substances. (They can do that kind of thing in Merry Ole England without causing bedlam and scaring off funders.)

Now at least two major botanic gardens are betting that GPS technology is just the ticket for this finicky cohort. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has unveiled the “Kew Ranger,” a hand-held GPS unit. The device, which is available for rent, tells teens (as well as technology-averse adults) their exact location in the garden, then displays information about nearby specimens. Meanwhile, in Miami, educators at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden are employing GPS units to get students psyched about plants.

Then there’s the fact that a representative from attended the APGA conference in Pasadena in June. Stay tuned.

Canopy Walk and Rhizotron

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

Canopy walks at botanical gardens and arboretums are the hottest thing since children’s discovery gardens started appearing everywhere in the 90s. Kew’s new Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop Walkway, named after the mining company that helped fund it and designed by the firm that did the London Eye, climbs 59 feet high into a canopy of chestnuts, oaks, and limes, and also takes a dip below ground to explore the subterranean world of tree roots. Another trend alert, at least in England: The design of the canopy walk is based on the Fibonacci Series.