March 1, 2012

Botanical Tutorial: The Botanical Research Institute of Texas by H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture

Daria Pizzetta has undertaken building and renovation projects for all kinds of clients with cultural and educational missions: a performing-arts building in Brooklyn, New York, public libraries in Centereach, New York, and Savannah, Georgia, a maritime museum in Biloxi, Mississippi. Before the H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture partner started designing the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, however, she had never encountered an organization so dedicated to “conserving our natural heritage through building design,” she says. “From our initial meeting, they were steadfast in the de­sire to build the most ecologically friendly headquarters they could.”

The institute, which had leased munic­ipal property adjacent to the Fort Worth Botanical Garden, asked H3 to provide a herbarium for 2 million dried specimens, a library for 125,000 volumes, laboratories, an exhibition hall, event space, an education center, a printing facility, and offices. What’s more, preservation of the earth’s resources had to inform every aspect, from orientation with regard to the site plan to building materials, energy systems, plantings, and rainwater management. (Fort Worth’s scorching droughts are followed by torrential rains.) “With advanced insulation, thermal glass, and reflective roofing membranes, we can all design struc­tures that take less energy to heat and cool,” Pizzetta says. She also got a crash course in green roofs, working with researchers at the institute and the botany faculty at Texas Christian University to develop plant­ings that mimic the indigenous prairie.

In addition to being selected as a pilot for the Sustainable Sites Initiative, a national eco rating system for landscape design, the project received the first LEED-NC Platinum certification in Tarrant County. But Pizzetta doesn’t consider that the endgame: “It wasn’t just about the right number of points. It was about getting it right.” 

Photography by Chris Cooper.

Recent Projects