The design for the visitor center was inspired by the leaves of an orchid — its wings consists of ‘petals’ that shoot off from the ‘stem’, which serve as the central atrium and lobby. The stem has been built from rammed earth and features a vaulted ceiling and roof constructed from prefab wood-glue laminated beams made by StructureCraft Builders Inc. A glass tower in the atrium infuses the center with natural daylight and also serves as a solar chimney that exhausts hot air. Grass and colorful floral bulbs will be planted on the undulating green roof, which will also direct rain into underground cisterns for use around the center.
A photovoltaic system on the roof will generate electricity for the center, and hot water will be provided by a biomass boiler fed by dry wood waste reclaimed from the surrounding area. Totally off-grid, the center will provide all of its own power and will source all of its own water from rain catchment, storm water and black water recycling.
Construction on the center started this past May and it is expected to be completed by March of 2011. The Botanical Garden hopes that the new center will increase the number of visitors to 300,000 people annually while providing a place for education and inspiration. The Government of Canada, the City of Vancouver, the Province of British Columbia, and the VanDusen Botanical Garden have pooled an investment of over $19.4 million to build the new center.
Busby Perkins + Will has designed the center to meet the Living Building Challenge 2.0 (as per the Cascadia Green Building Council) as well as LEED Platinum standards. To receive its Living Building certification, the center will have to operate for 12 months with net zero energy while providing all of its own water. If everything goes as planned, the center could be Canada’s first Living Building.