Walking through the gates of the QBG, the first thing you notice is what looks like a sloping green meadow. It usually takes a little head-craning (or a glimpse at one of the informational signs) before you notice that it’s actually not a hill you see, but a roof! Planted with a collection of mostly native ferns, shrubs, sedges, wildflowers and more, the 8,000-square-foot roof works to keep the buried auditorium below it naturally cool. On our visit, we had the good fortune of running into the green roof garden’s caretaker who explained to us that most of the plants needed a little extra water and care due to the unusually severe heat.
Once you climb your way up the green roof, you’re treated to a view of the rest of the building, which features not just one, but two more different types of roofs that work to make it sustainable. The most noticeable is the angular rainwater-harvesting canopy, which captures and directs rainwater into a cascading channel to be stored in the biotope and underground tank (which can hold 24,000 gallons or enough to fill your bathtub every day for more than a year!) and as greywater for toilets. Less apparent is the photovoltaic roof which sits directly atop the administrative area of the building, collecting solar energy. In addition to the 3 working roofs, the center also employs a ground-source heatpump system to provide even more power for itself.
To get a closer look at the rainwater channel that flows all around the building, we ran down the green roof and circled around to the other side of the center. There we found a modern, rectangular wing that is a sharp contrast to the idyllic look of the green roof. Overlooking a biotope thriving with natural grasses and bright, persimmon-colored fish that match the burnt orange tones found in the recycled metal columns of the architecture, the reception building’s meeting rooms peek out behind a stylish brise-soleil (or sun shade). The rooms’ large windows allow them to be lit naturally, and we can imagine that anyone sitting in one of them might have the sensation that they are actually floating right atop the placid waters of the biotope.
If all of the green innovations we mentioned so far aren’t enough for you, the center also has waterless urinals and composting toilets, an efficient lighting system, and glass doors and windows that let in cool air (weather permitting) to naturally ventilate the spaces. An excess of 33% of the materials in the building (by cost) were harvested or manufactured within 500 miles of the site and many of the materials were recycled or produced sustainably.
Phew! With a list of green features this long, it’s no wonder that this ahead-of-its-time project achieved LEED Platinum, well, ahead of many others in the city (not to rub it in but Brooklyn just announced its first Platinum building this year). The QBG Visitor Center was also honored as an AIA Committee on the Environment Top Ten Green Project for 2008.
Photos by Yuka Yoneda for Inhabitat