The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine, celebrated summer with the opening of the Bosarge Family Education Center, an 8,000-square-foot learning environment that is expected to achieve net-zero-energy status. Focused on education, the facility also is expected to achieve LEED Platinum certification.

The education center—designed by Scott Simons Architects of Portland, Maine and Maclay Architects of Waitsfield, Vt.—will provide space for classes, workshops, meetings, artists in residence, and cultural events. In addition, the structure includes gallery spaces for art exhibits. Taking its educational theme to heart, the facility features illustrated interpretive panels as well as an electronic dashboard that explain the building and the 250-acre site. Energy use will be documented in real time.

The building’s design is based on the question: What if a plant designed a building. The architects conceived that a plant would create an efficient building independent of fossil fuels. It would produce only waste that can be used by another system and would conserve water through on-site capture and reuse.

Sustainable features include triple-glazed windows, foot-thick walls with an R-value of 40, and thick roofs with an R-value of 60. Air-to-air heat pumps provide cooling in the summer and heat in the winter. Two photovoltaic arrays—135 panels on the roof’s south side and 102 panels on former tennis courts—will generate more than 55,000kWh of energy annually. Excess energy will be transferred to an off-site grid to be returned and used as needed.

To address water use, the architects incorporated low-flow faucets and fixtures. A 1,700-gallon underground cistern will store rainwater for reuse in toilets, radiant heating, and cooling.

The building site is designed in five distinct planting zones to address the microclimates in each area, from full sun to full shade to boggy conditions. Native plants were matched to each climate to eliminate the need for irrigation.Rain garden areas will collect runoff that will then be filtered to the underground cistern.

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