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Massive greenhouse wins award for sustainable design


The Global Flora Conservatory at Wellesley College already holds several design awards, including the 2021 Architizer A+ Awards Jury Winner for Architecture + New Technology. After several years of planning and construction, it is nearly complete.

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Floor plan sketch

Designed by Boston-based Kennedy & Violich Architecture, Ltd., Global Flora Conservatory is a massive greenhouse and science center. It replaces the long-standing greenhouse erected 100 years ago under the guidance of Dr. Margaret Ferguson, a famed American botanist.

Related: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens LEEDs the way in green design

Outside Camellia Pavilion

“Global Flora builds on the rich history of botanical education and research at Wellesley College established in the 1920s by Dr. Margaret Ferguson, who advocated for interdisciplinary botanical education as a Center for the College’s intellectual life,” said Kristina Jones, professor of botany and director of the Botanic Gardens at Wellesley College. “The new space will be an amazing platform for student engagement with nature and with the systems thinking that underpins progress in sustainability.”

View of the interior Wet Biome

The conservatory houses the college’s expansive and notable plant collection, including an iconic Durant Camellia tree, which is over 140 years old and memorialized in its own pavilion. In its final form, the building contours to accommodate the varied heights of the plants inside. The curved design is placed along the east to west sun path to take advantage of natural heating, cooling, ventilation and light.

Floor map describing inside functions

A transparent ETFE building skin, a lightweight alternative to glass, allows students, scientists and the public to view the plants, while an Interactive Sensor Platform provides real-time data in regards to air, water, soil and energy. This system allows visitors to share information to scientific and personal communities around the world. Inside the greenhouse, the ecosystem combines wet and dry biomes to support each other and helps maintain consistent temperatures and moisture levels for the plants. 

View looking down at a walkway

Global Flora Conservatory integrated passive and active systems meet the criteria for the Net Zero Water category of the Living Building Challenge. The conservatory will also achieve net-zero energy consumption once the campus converts to solar and geothermal systems.

(Left to right) View of interior and pavilion entrance

The project was designed in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team at Wellesley College led by Jones and Cathy Summa, a professor of geoscience and the director of the Wellesley College Science Center.

+ Kennedy & Violich Architecture

Images via KVA



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