AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects

Page Tools

Queens Botanical Garden Visitor Center

The entrance forecourt and sheltering canopy are shown here at dusk.
Photo credit: Jeff Goldberg, Esto


  • Location: Flushing, NY
  • Climate Region: 4A: Mixed - Humid
  • Building type(s): Interpretive Center
  • New construction
  • 15,800 ft2 (1,470 m2)
  • Project scope: a single building
  • Urban setting
  • Completed September 2007
  • Rating: U.S. Green Building Council LEED-NC, v.2/v.2.1--Level: Platinum (52 points)

The Queens Botanical Garden is located on 39 acres of land owned by New York City, the legacy of the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs. It is open to the public, and admission is free.

The Visitor and Administration Center includes a reception area, an auditorium, a garden store, gallery space, meeting rooms, administrative offices, and a mechanical room. The project is made up of three interconnected spaces: a forecourt and roof canopy, a linear central reception and administration building clad in wood and glass, and an auditorium space tucked into the landscape, sheltered by a sloping green roof.

This project was chosen as an AIA Committee on the Environment Top Ten Green Project for 2008. It was submitted by BKSK Architects, LLP, in New York City. Additional project team members are listed on the "Process" screen.

Environmental Aspects

The Visitor and Administration Center was designed to celebrate the relationship between diverse cultures and the environment and to showcase water management, landscape integration, and energy conservation and generation. The Queens Botanical Garden is accessible by public transportation, and showers and changing areas encourage employees to bike or walk.

Reusing graywater for flushing toilets reduces the project's potable water consumption by 55%. The building also features waterless urinals and composting toilets. Thanks to extensive bioswales and a green roof on the auditorium, the project manages all stormwater on site. A water channel, fed by rainwater that cascades off the roof canopy, weaves around the building and through the gardens.

The reception building's long, narrow shape is oriented along an east-west axis, allowing daylight to penetrate all interior spaces. An efficient lighting system, daylight dimming, and occupancy sensors reduce energy consumption. Glass doors and windows open in temperate weather, providing natural ventilation. The building uses photovoltaic panels and a ground-source heat-pump system to harvest energy on site.

More than 33% of the materials in the building, by cost, were harvested or manufactured within 500 miles of the project site. The project team also preferred materials with high durability, low maintenance requirements, recycled content, low chemical emissions, and Forest Stewardship Council certification.

Owner & Occupancy

  • Owned and occupied by Queens Botanical Garden, Local government
  • Typically occupied by 15 people, 40 hours per person per week; and 5,400 visitors per week, 2 hours per visitor per week


Integrated team, Design charrette, Green framework, Transportation benefits, Open space preservation, Indigenous vegetation, Stormwater management, Efficient fixtures and appliances, Graywater, Massing and orientation, Insulation levels, Glazing, Passive solar, Lighting control and daylight harvesting, Efficient lighting, On-site renewable electricity, Durability, Benign materials, Recycled materials, Local materials, Certified wood, C&D waste management, Occupant recycling, Connection to outdoors, Daylighting, Natural ventilation, Noise control, Low-emitting materials

next topic:
Go to next topic: Process

Last updated: 5/20/2009

Our thanks to the ENERGY STAR program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and to the U.S. Department of Energy, and to BuildingGreen, Inc. for hosting the submission and judging forms.

For more information about the AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects, contact AIA/COTE. For help on how to use this Web site, contact .

Footer Navigation

Copyright & Privacy

  • © The American Institute of Architects
  • Privacy