The Queens Botanical Garden, home to a network of diverse plant ecosystems with intertwining pathways, went under significant renovation in August 2006 and has become the first major development project in Queens to earn platinum honors in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the US Green Building Council. With the opening of the new visitor center and administrative building in September 2007, the Botanical Garden now has one of the greenest buildings in the city.
Implementation of Phase I of the garden’s new master plan cost over $17 million, largely due to the fact the garden was first built as a part of the 1939 World’s Fair in Queens and was in need of modernization. The construction of their Sustainable Landscapes and Building Project involves green design throughout the Garden including two new buildings, one for horticulture and maintenance and another for visitors and administrative services, as well as a parking garden and a number of community gardens incorporating all native plants and innovative water maintenance techniques.
Some of the Garden’s special features, which helped it earn the highest LEED distinction possible, include the use of local and recycled materials for construction, a green roof, and a geothermal energy system that uses the earth’s temperature to heat and cool the building, thereby lowering energy costs by up to $7000 a year.
Almost all of the wood used to construct both buildings has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which means that the wood was extracted from forests in a sustainable manner. The recycling of gray water from the building’s sinks and shower as well as stormwater off the roof filtered through a constructed wetland and special absorbent cleansing bio-tape is another aspect that has drawn much attention.
Once the water is naturally cleaned it is filtered back into the buildings for use in the toilets and in water channels and fountains throughout the Garden, reducing costly development impact on the city’s wastewater treatment. The Garden’s Master Plan, which includes additional renovations/construction will be fully realized in 2015.
In March 2009, three parts of the Queens Botanical Garden were designated landmarks by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) including the New York Botanical Garden Museum Building, the Fountain of Life, and the Tulip Tree Allee. All three are part of a Beaux Art complex that was first created by the New York State Legislature in 1891.