Texas Plant Life

Apparently there has been a Botanical Research Institute in Texas for 20 years; I had no idea what a botanical research institute was either. The Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) has resided in Fort Worth for a long time, but recently moved to University Drive (Fort Worth Cultural District) after completion of the brand new BRIT long-term sustainable building. BRIT employees (Richard Smart & Sam Keishik)  pride themselves on the building and land having so many sustainable qualities. Everyone involved in planning the new BRIT wanted the building to exemplify and teach sustainability in every aspect possible. Listed are a majority of those sustainable features:

Parking Lot

  • Rain Gardens for proper storm water management.
  • Low-emission vehicle parking to reward those with energy-efficient automobiles.
  • Native Texas plants for less maintenance and water use.
  • Energy efficient LED lighting to encourage natural light levels.
  • Necessary irrigation provided by the BRIT’s retention pond.

Surrounding Land

  • Prairie habitat that is easily maintained, low irrigation and natural to the habitat.
  • Retention pond for all irrigation needs and storm-water runoff collection.
  • Cistern for added runoff collection, potable water use and irrigation.
  • Underground geothermal well to maintain heating and cooling.

Building (Outside)

  • Vegetative prairie roof to cut heating/cooling and runoff.
  • Tube solar panels on roof providing 14% of BRIT energy.
  • Light walls and white roof to lower heat absorption and reflection for solar tubes.

Building (Inside)

  • Day-lighting windows & LED/fluorescent bulbs for lower energy use .
  • Smart lighting motion detectors and light harvesting sensors for efficient light usage.
  • Sustainable bamboo & sinker cypress used for walls and ceilings.
  • Recycling containers and pick-up for processing.
  • Low-flow toilets/faucets and waterless urinals to reduce water use.
  • LEED standard paints and carpeting for better indoor air quality.

With all of these design specifications the BRIT was able to meet a LEED Platinum rating and will see a payback of their investment within five years. With all of the savings accrued, the BRIT has been able to better focus and invest in the purpose of the building: “to  conserve our natural heritage by deepening our knowledge of the plant world and achieving public understanding of the value plants bring to life”. The BRIT contains one of the largest libraries of botanic reference materials in the world and an herbarium (preserved plant museum) for botanical research. It is becoming more clear that humans are becoming disconnected from nature and its effects on life. The BRIT exists to engage the public over plant life/plant trends and provide basic knowledge to reduce extinction rates and increase biodiversity. With a LEED platinum building and an ample collection of botanical resources the BRIT serves the community by example; a rare feature in today’s world.

Steve Chaney of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, also understands the importance of plant life and how it affects sustainability. The Texas AgriLife Service, an extension of Texas A&M,provides Texans with information regarding anything and everything having to do with horticulture. Chaney is a wealth of knowledge on plant skills, tips and facts that effect everything from lawn care to water reservoir levels. Texas AgriLife is concerned not only with biodiversity and plant degradation, but also water use, considering irrigation plays a major role in plant health. Chaney encourages education on plant ecology and sustainable landscaping and has even provided “7 Principles of Sustainable Landscaping”: 1.Planning & Design 2.Soil Analysis 3.Plant Selection 4.Practical Turf Areas 5.Efficient Irrigation 6.Mulch 7.Landscape Management Best Practices. The BRIT, Texas AgriLife Service and Steve Chaney understand the importance of plant life and its effect on the world. The encouragement of biodiversity and home gardening will hopefully become more mainstream with the help of these change agents.

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