Collaborative Design Enhances the Desert Botanical Gardens

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A Game Changer… A Model for Sustainability… A Turning Point… Unbound by Convention… World Leading Green Building… Inspiring… Happy Plants.

These were some of the goals set for the Desert Botanical Garden's Hazel Hare Center for Plant Science. The design process was intensive and included over forty participants. The space was intended to integrate horticulture within the community in an accessible and educational way, while maintaining the beauty of the garden. Overall, the choice of collaborative development was critical because it allowed for place-making and encouraged knowledge building along the way.

For the design phase, the group worked together to determine the most important goals for the space, and then set about designing the master site plan through several workshops. Everyone participated in these exercises, from the architects, engineers, and general contractors to garden staff, board members, volunteers, biologists, and trustees. These inclusive planning events enabled trust and consensus. The client helped with the engineering, the engineers used creativity to help the designers, and staff helped design the buildings - all to ensure the project moved along swiftly, efficiently, and with the best outcome possible for the Botanical Garden.

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180 degrees and coLAB studio spearheaded the project and used their combined expertise to guide and manage the process. More complex elements of the project, such as energy modeling and extensive cost scenarios, provided the entire team with information to make the very best decisions that addressed the concerns not only of the space, but of the community. In brief, solutions to complicated problems were found easily resolved with the help of a strong team-bond.

This center is unique because it not only address the unique needs of the plants, but it was designed and constructed with the needs of the entire garden in mind. The center features automated, state-of-the-art greenhouses, a break area, and an education center. Plants are the central focus of the Garden, thus the greenhouses are placed at center and use energy-saving polycarbonate cladding. This type of material is a great alternative to glass as it diffuses light and allows for greater plant health.

Its 24’x24’ grid is extended over the site to provide future shading of paths and to reduce overall site heat gain. Surrounding buildings are also clad with polycarbonate and are able to provide diffused light to interior spaces. Each of these design elements are not only architecturally beautiful, but ensure maximum energy savings and sustainability.

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In sum, sustainability was a key focal point for both firms and all participants on the team. In order to reduce waste and minimize construction costs, salvaged materials are used throughout the center. For example, site division between public and operation areas was achieved through the use of giant boulders to create a “great-wall” that ensures guest and plant safety. Water collection is part of the project as well, which in turn offers various uses and close proximity to native landscapes. 

The result of these efforts and attention to detail created an ideal space for happy plants, happy staff, and  a unique desert harmony.

Interested in learning more about thoughtful design projects in Arizona? Check out our For(u)m program