Motivated by the Chicago Botanic Garden’s mission to “cultivate the power of plants to sustain and enrich life,” the Learning Center fosters connections between people and nature through cultural programming and sensory experiences. The Learning Center enhances the Botanic Garden’s distinguished education program, expanding existing curriculums and embracing new audiences with a state-of-the-art space designed to inspire exploration and interaction with nature. This LEED Platinum building is the heart of the Garden’s new seven-acre Learning Campus.
United with its landscape, the curvilinear building welcomes visitors. Interior classrooms open to multi-sensory gardens and outdoor terraces. The building’s masonry exterior echoes the warm palette set by the Garden’s existing structures. Its sculpted form and integrated technology reflect the Garden’s commitment to environmental stewardship. Sun scoops fill the entry atrium, central hallway, and classrooms with daylight. Together with an optimized building orientation, high-performance envelope, roof overhangs, and solar panels, the Learning Center achieves a 48% energy cost-reduction.
Classrooms are designed to host a variety of activities for all age groups. Adult programs include cooking, yoga, and wellness classes. Early childhood programs enjoy the outdoor terraces and play-inspiring landscape. A plant preparation room functions as a greenhouse. Typical classrooms are equipped with smart boards for multimedia presentations. Large multipurpose rooms can be rented for private receptions and community meetings.
The Learning Center achieves the Botanic Garden’s goal by generating excitement and curiosity about our natural world.
Designed with energy efficiency and sustainability in mind, the Learning Center’s curvilinear form and integrated technology work together to uphold the Botanic Garden’s commitment to environmental stewardship and achieve LEED Platinum from the U.S. Green Building Council. From planning to planting, every aspect of the building incorporates recycled and low-carbon materials and meets the highest energy-efficient standards. The Learning Center itself is a teaching tool.
The building is outfitted with low-energy, long-lasting LED fixtures, and 83 solar panels generate 16% of the building's electricity. Advanced lighting control systems, including daylight and occupancy sensors, are utilized. The Predicted EUI is 40.03 kBtu/sf/yr. The Predicted percentage of EUI reduction is 47.3%.
Each year, the Chicago Botanic Garden welcomes over one million visitors. The Garden has made it part of their mission to promote alternative forms of transportation. Bicycle storage is provided. No new parking was added, as the site already included parking spaces. While the Garden is free, you must pay for parking - thus, anyone is able to ride, skate, or walk right in for free. Because of the Learning Center's suburban setting, extra measure have been taken to overcome their disadvantages from not being on a transit oriented site. Their website provides detailed instructions for traveling by train or bus. Visitors can take the Union Pacific North Metra Line to the Braeside or Glencoe Stations, where they can then take a PACE bus or a $2 Trolley provided by the Garden during peak months.
In addition to promoting alternate transportation options to their visitors, the Garden also promotes sustainable transportation practices for their staff. Due to the expansive size of the campus, the Garden has taken measures to reduce the amount of driving staff members do on the campus with traditional gas powered vehicles. They accomplish this by providing electric golf carts for staff use.
The landscaping and irrigations systems were designed to reduce irrigation water consumption from a calculated baseline case. The percentage of total water reduction for irrigation was 63.72%. A 41% water use reduction was achieved by using low flow fixtures throughout the building. The project includes a stormwater management plan that incorporates native plantings, bioswale, open grid pavers, and grass/mulch areas to reduce the post development runoff quantities. The final design of the building has a smaller runoff rate than the site prior to this development.
33.44% recycled content used in materials on job.
57.28% materials used in the job were located within 500 miles of the site.
85% of wood used on the job was FSC certified.
Low-VOC adhesives, sealants, paints, wood and Agrifiber products were all used in the construction of the Learning Center.