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February 10, 2013

Queens Botanical Garden Visitor Administration Building

The Queens Botanical Garden (QBG) will complete the first phase of its master plan, the Sustainable Landscapes and Buildings Project, in Fall 2009. The mandate for capital development at QBG is to demonstrate environmental stewardship, promote sustainability and celebrate cultural connections. The Sustainable Landscapes and Buildings Project includes the LEED Platinum rated Visitor& Administration Building, a Horticulture/Maintenance facility, sustainable landscapes, and a new Parking Garden currently under construction. The Visitor & Administration Center is a High Performance Building demonstration project for New York City’s Office of Sustainable Design at the Department of Design and Construction. The Visitor Center captures the sun’s energy with photovoltaic panels, collects and reuses rainwater, recycles gray water, utilizes geothermal energy for heating and cooling, manages 100% storm water on-site, mitigates urban heat island effect with a 3,000 sq ft green roof, houses composting toilets, and incorporates over 800 native plant species to create a sustainable landscape that is representative of New York regional habitats. The Garden has partnered with Columbia University’s Center for Climate Systems Research to monitor its green roof, and make comparisons to temperatures of black and white roofs on site. Live data from the Garden’s photovoltaics and green roof is available through the Garden’s website. The Garden is currently in construction to create a new parking garden that will continue to manage 100 % storm water through a system of swales, permeable paving and native plants. Please see www.queensbotanical.org/sustainable for more information.

NYC Administration for Childrens Services

492 First Avenue, NYC’s new Children’s Intake Center, provides a good example of the synergies inherent in urban green design, where the values of old buildings often mesh well with sustainable design. Thus, saving and reusing this stately 1901 landmark by McKim, Mead and White greatly reduced the energy and materials needed for construction while diverting demolition debris from landfills. Like many NYC buildings, its closeness to mass transit reduces dependence on cars. And, since the building was designed before electric lighting was widely used, the building incorporates traditional, passive strategies for daylighting – narrow floor plates, high ceilings, and large, tall windows. Because of this, the new design captures lots of natural light, improving the quality of life, and reducing the energy consumed by artificial lighting, which is, surprisingly, half the energy consumed by this building type. Also, New York City, through its Office of Sustainable Design at the DDC, looks for matches between the goals of its agencies and green strategies. The Agency for Children’s Services placed a premium on good indoor air quality, given the chemical sensitivities of many of the children it services, so the design uses strategies like use of low VOC products, increased air changes, and cleaner fresh air intake. Also, the use of natural materials, such as maple and cork, results in a less institutional quality, another advantage for an agency working with children. Finally, New York looks to utilize green strategies that improve the air and water quality of the city as a whole and that help with the city’s long-term finances. The building uses numerous cost-effective strategies, such as an improved thermal envelope, highly efficient technologies, and the use of ConEd’s waste heat, to reduce the energy used by the building and the air pollution created by it. Similarly, the use of low-flow fixtures reduces the city’s demand on its reservoirs and its sewage treatment facilities.