Breathing Easy

Automated vents in the lower portions of the glazed wall open near the floor of the 60-foot-tall space to capture prevailing southernly breezes. The air then climbs as it warms and exits through roof vents. As breezes pass over the glazed roof vents, a Venturi effect is created: Wind speed accelerates and draws warm air out of the interior space. Building operators continue to tweak vent-opening configurations to optimize interior conditions.

IKM Architects carefully choreographed the visitor experience. You enter at a high point, where mountain rain forest plants are positioned, then descend along a winding path through lowland ecosystems. Comfort for people and plants was also a high priority. An array of localized controls create microclimates for particular families of plants without wasting energy.

Studies of the interior air show how fresh and how warm the air is, as well as how quickly the air moves throughout the space.

Passive solar design and natural convection are common strategies in most green buildings.

To meet the specialized lighting and ventilation demands of the conservatory, state-of-the-art software and sensors analyze conditions inside and outside, automatically adjusting vents, shades, dampers, and valves to optimize conditions.

All glazing is argon-filled insulated clear glass except above door height on the south wall, where uninsulated, single-pane glass permits the maximum amount of light to reach the light-hungry tropical plants. To minimize shadows, window mullions on sunny exposures have narrow profiles and are perpendicular to the curved wall. If sunlight overheats the interior, automated shades unroll below the roof to keep the heat near the envelope. The shades are Mylar coated on the upper surface to reflect radiant energy and have insulating fabric on the underside. The architects plan to add shades on the vertical south glass wall, because the conservatory gets a bit too warm on sunny winter days.

Pressure and velocity studies show how outside air hits the southern wall of the building, then loses speed and pressure as it flows over the aerodynamic form.

This movement helps draw warm air out of vents on the roof, maintaining air flow and temperature inside.

Plant beds have root-zone heating, so the canopies of the plants can endure cooler temperatures without suffering. Misters deliver a fine spray of water to plant canopies as needed, and in summer ultrasonic foggers near the footpaths introduce evaporative cooling locally. Radiant heating in the footpaths provides supplementary heat when needed.

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