polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

Garden Center on Path to LEED Platinum

by Peter Sigrist

I recently visited the new Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center at Cornell Plantations. It rests comfortably at the base of Comstock Knoll — a small glacial deposit next to Beebe Lake. When the center opens in January, it will provide exhibition space, divisible conference rooms, a cafe, a kitchenette, and a gift shop in a compact two-story shell.

The building, designed by Baird Sampson Neuert, has a chance of reaching LEED platinum. It minimizes fossil-fuel consumption and carbon emissions using solar panels, a living roof, and low-energy lighting and temperature controls. A bioswale filters runoff from the parking lot. Trees around the lot are planted in Structural Soil to foster healthy root growth. They've also been added to the plantations' Urban Tree Collection, which allows researchers in the department of horticulture to evaluate their ability to thrive in difficult conditions.

I found the center comfortable and inviting — distinctly modern without feeling incompatible with the surrounding landscape. It curves gently around the knoll, leading walkers into a breezy atrium or further along to the botanical garden, arboretum, and other natural areas. It will be a perfect setting for community events and educational programs, or for having tea while looking out onto the gardens. Here are some photos from a brief walk inside and around the building.

Credits: Photos by Peter Sigrist.