$13M Morris Arboretum hort center rates LEED platinum

The new Horticulture Center at the Morris Arboretum.

Of all the ways to make a building greener, you probably could have predicted this one for the new horticultural center at the Morris Arboretum: It's got a green roof. And not just one, but two.

The four-bay garage has a four-inch deep planting area with various types of sedum. The six-bay garage roof is eight inches deep and has an experimental mix of plant species that are well adapted to seasonal hot and dry conditions.

But that's not all. The wealth of greenings in the $13 million center recently garnered it a platinum certification, the highest rating by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program.

There are scads of LEED categories for homes, schools, churhes, you name it, so there are ample occasions to declare one's building "the first." Even so, this is the first LEED platinum building for the University of Pennsylvania, and only the second in the state of Pennsylvania, the arboretum reports.

The center is the first new building on the arboretum property since its founding in the early 1900s. What a way to move ahead.

Here are the other things that contributed to the rating:

• An ground-source heat pump for heating and air conditioning, using about one-forth the energy of a typical boiler/air conditioning system

• Photovoltaic panels for on-site generation of electricity

• Solar hot water heaters to provide much of the building’s hot water

• Storm water collection in cisterns for use in toilets and landscape irrigation

• Skylights and roof monitors to supplement artificial lighting, plus photocell sensors that will automatically dim the electric lights on bright days

• Rain gardens and other collection systems to mitigate storm water run off

The building is at Bloomfield Farm, across the street from the arboretum's 92-acre public garden, which is at 100 East Northwestern Avenue in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. While the new center is not open to the public,the arboretum staff is so proud of it that they'll be offering tours from time to time. Spokeswoman Susan Crane said that anyone interested should call the arboretum's main number, 215-247-5777 to ask about them.

The Horticulture Center was designed by architects from Overland Partners of San Antonio, TX, Muscoe Martin of Philadelphia’s M2 Architecture, and Andropogon Associates, Morris Arboretum’s Philadelphia-based landscape planners for the Arboretum since 1977. The contractor for the project was W.S. Cumby.

For more information, visit www.morrisarboretum.org.