The 15,000 square foot, five-story Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory constructed of galvanized steel is the centerpiece of the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.
The 15,000 square foot, five-story Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory constructed of galvanized steel is the centerpiece of the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

Designing a better built environment is at the forefront of responsible architecture. In the past, North America was known as somewhat of a “throwaway” society, but the growth of sustainable development practices has led to more of a “built to last” mentality.

Utilizing sustainable materials like hot-dip galvanized steel ensures your designs will stand the test of time while improving the quality of life for future generations. Built in 1994, the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Mich., is just one example of how an architect can leave a legacy by designing with galvanized steel.

The 15,000 square foot, five-story Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory constructed of galvanized steel is the centerpiece of the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.
The 15,000 square foot, five-story Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory constructed of galvanized steel is the centerpiece of the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

Serendipitous Specification
Steel is commonly considered when designing building structures, and when it comes to exterior or exposed elements, architects often evaluate several corrosion protection methods. Hot-dip galvanizing—coating steel with zinc—is one such method.

When Bob Pomeroy and his then firm Cox Medendorp Olson Architects began to design the Frederik Meijer Garden project, they were looking for corrosion solutions for the greenhouse structures. When representatives of the firm attended a horticulture conference in New York City, a bit of serendipity led to the specification of hot-dip galvanized steel, which was not the original coating they desired.

During a 2017 filmed interview for a Galvanized Steel Study, Pomeroy shared how the Princess of Wales Conservatory in London and Brooklyn Botanical Gardens contributed to the choice to galvanize the facility.

Environment and Economics Go Hand in Hand
Considering the nature of the project—a botanical garden, which would be operated by a nonprofit organization—a structure both environmentally and economically sustainable was front of mind. Galvanized steel, which utilizes natural, recyclable zinc--often found in food, fertilizers, and cold medicines, and provides decades of maintenance-free corrosion protection,--met both goals.

The entrance canopies/gates to the Frederik Meijer Garden and Sculpture Park feature hot-dip galvanized steel for corrosion protection.
The entrance canopies/gates to the Frederik Meijer Garden and Sculpture Park feature hot-dip galvanized steel for corrosion protection.

In 2017, Frederik Meijer Gardens facility manager K.C. Mitchell and Pomeroy both stated the facility has met or exceeded the expectations over the last 24 years. Mitchell noted no funds have been used on upkeep of the galvanized steel structures even though it has been subjected to corrosive elements on the interior and exterior.

Pomeroy stated, “I think as an architect, when you come back to a facility—it looks the same as it did when it went up, and (so) without a doubt, we would galvanize something like this (again). I think it’s a proven technology and when you see the results (nearly) 25 years later, why would you not continue to use that same system.”

The five-story Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory, built of hot-dip galvanized steel, houses a waterfall, rock landscapes, and many exotic plants.
The five-story Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory, built of hot-dip galvanized steel, houses a waterfall, rock landscapes, and many exotic plants.

Proven Technology
As Pomeroy noted, hot-dip galvanizing is a proven technology, and the performance of the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is the rule, not an exception. There are many more examples of how hot-dip galvanized steel helps architects build structures to transcend time—sustaining their appearance and functionality by avoiding the ravages of corrosion.

Learn more about using galvanize steel in your next project.