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$2M rooftop greenhouse to be completed this summer

Photo by Alexander Knobloch

The long-awaited greenhouse will move from the shore of Lake Virginia to the roof of Bush Science Center, and it will open this summer as a part of the campus’ Lakeside renovation plan.

The cost of the greenhouse’s construction is estimated at $2 million. 

Initially, the greenhouse was scheduled for inauguration in early May, but according to Jeremy Williamson, director of Facilities Services for Planning and Construction, it was moved to early July. 

The greenhouse has been reduced in size from 2,700 feet to 2,500 feet, Williamson said.

Alan Chryst, greenhouse manager, expressed concern about not having enough space for every plant. However, it now appears that there will be enough space to move every plant to the greenhouse.

“Apparently we may be able to save all the plants,” Chryst said. “My supervisor has given permission to locate some of the plants that do not fit in the collection room to the research room, and move them around at their need.”

Scott Bitikofer, Vice President of Facilities Services, said, “The new greenhouse will be more student- and research-oriented. The greenhouse will have three different growth chambers with independent atmospheres that are adjustable for different experiments.”  

According to Chryst, the new greenhouse will have state-of-the-art technology such as shading cloths to regulate sunlight intake. It will also have a manual and automated control panel to adjust temperatures and tailor the chambers’ environment to suit the needs of each experiment.

Additionally, Chryst said the new greenhouse will feature a reverse osmosis irrigation system. This system filters and recycles water to irrigate the nearly 500 plant species housed there. 

The structure of the greenhouse will consist of glass and metal.

Although constructing the greenhouse on the roof has raised concerns about leaking, Bitikofer said that they are ready to “build accordingly to engage any issue.”

Paul Stephenson, associate professor and chair of the biology department, said the new greenhouse will only grant admission to students with R-cards, as well as faculty and staff. 

“Since one has to access the Bush building in order to enter the greenhouse, it will be difficult for people who are not students to be able to visit,” he said. “The school is trying to make the Bush building more secure for everyone.”

Stephenson said that he is looking forward to the new location, as it will “add a new lab space for students and faculty, which is very nice because we have not had a space for plant research.”

Chryst said, “It is going to be a state-of-the-art facility, and a great enhancement to the Bush Science Center […] Current and future students will be reaping the benefits.”

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