Located in Cornwall, the Eden Project was conceived by Tim Smit and designed by famed architect Nicholas Grimshaw. The covered biomes were inspired by the moon and are constructed from a tubular steel space-frame clad with (mostly) hexagonal panels made from a thermoplastic called ETFE. While ETFE is a type of plastic (which is a petroleum product), it is recyclable, light and durable. In fact, if it rips, there is even special ETFE tape that can be applied so that a full panel does not need to be replaced. It’s also cheaper, lighter and safer than glass. Once pieced together, the panels were sealed around their perimeter and inflated to create a large cushion, which acts as a thermal blanket and keeps conditions inside the biome conducive to housing flora.
The Eden Project has three main biomes: the Tropical Biome, the Mediterranean Biome and the Outdoor Biome (which is uncovered). The Tropical Biome houses plants such as fruiting banana trees, coffee, rubber and giant bamboo, while the Mediterranean Biome is home to European plants such as olives and grape vines. The Outdoor Biome is filled with plants that can be grown outside in the UK climate like tea, lavender, hops, hemp and sunflowers.
While the Eden Project has many different programs to educate the public about the interdependence of plants and people and raise environmental awareness, it does need to use a huge amount of water to maintain the many species of plants living there (which isn’t very eco-friendly in itself). In order to walk the eco-walk in addition to talking the eco talk, the complex uses sanitized rain water to keep the Tropical Biome humid and to operate their toilets. The Eden Project also powers their facilities with Green Tariff Electricity which is supplied by one of the many wind turbines in Cornwall.
Lead photo © wildfire∆