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Green Architecture

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Published on: Sep. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

systems that are best suited for the location and climate of individual building sites.

"I think of environmentally appropriate design as having four main components," says architect Gregory J. Polanik, of Polanik Architects in St. Louis. "First, we look at site planning issues. We try to reuse existing buildings, build on urban sites that already have utility service and avoid contributing to suburban sprawl. Since energy used to operate buildings has the greatest impact on pollution, we try to make buildings as energy efficient as possible. We look at how healthy buildings and furnishings are for people, and we use the least toxic products available. Finally, we study the resource efficiency of building materials.

"As an example of resource efficiency," explains Polanik, "if you choose to build with large-dimension lumber, you are demanding a product that must be obtained from a large, old-growth tree. Logging an old-growth forest has a greater environmental impact than harvesting smaller trees, which can provide alternative forms of engineered lumber."

One Missouri organization using environmentally appropriate design is the Missouri Botanical Garden. In 1996, to accommodate its growing research staff, library and herbarium, the Garden acquired four acres of unused lots to build the Monsanto Research Center, a 78,000-square-foot facility at 4500 Shaw in the City of St. Louis.

Exterior features of the research center include:

  • A concrete-paved parking lot, which absorbs less heat than asphalt and for which far less pollution was produced in its manufacture.
  • Two storm water retention ponds that slowly release water into the storm water system.
  • Landscaping, including prairie grasses, which need minimal fertilizing and watering.
  • "Grasscrete" made of recycled plastic used around trees in the parking lot allows water to flow into the soil.
  • Parking lot lighting that includes lighting of 6-foot candle intensity controlled by motion sensors.

"When the vacant building on the site was demolished, many of its building materials were salvaged," explains Paul Brockmann, director of General Services for the Garden. "Instead of going into a landfill, the brick was sold to other builders, and all concrete on the site was ground up and used as backfill for other construction projects in St. Louis."

"We wanted the interior to be as energy-efficient as possible, and to provide safe, efficient storage for our collections," says Brockmann, "but we also wanted it to be a great place for people to work."

On all four floors of the Garden's research center, sunlight pours through large windows on the south side. "Light

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