This environmental research facility goes all in on sustainable design
A decade ago, many of the scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) worked in rusting trailers scattered across a patch of cleared forest. The researchers at the site, located on the Chesapeake Bay in Edgewater, Maryland, conducted vital climate change experiments, but their facilities left much to be desired—environmentally, functionally, and aesthetically.
The nearly 200 scientists, technicians, and students needed a safe place to conduct their research, store their specimens, and work together. Today, they have that in the Mathias Laboratory, the Smithsonian Institution’s greenest building to date.
Outside the facility, scientists have access to a “living laboratory,” a space for them to conduct their work in a holistic environment, one that both informs the research and serves to educate the public about environmental issues, says landscape architect Kathy Poole, of Poole Design LLC. Managing stormwater on the site became an opportunity to showcase how wonderful landscapes can also accomplish important, infrastructural work, says Poole, who characterizes the series of stepped terraces and wetland pools that filter pollutants and regulate water flow, as a “machine in the garden.” The rehabilitated landscape covers the full extent of the geothermal field and provides opportunities for wildlife habitat as well as scientific experimentation. “It’s very rare I have the opportunity to express what’s going on inside the building on the outside,” she says. The Machine in the Garden connects building and landscape water systems into functional and aesthetic expression—an apt metaphor for the close collaboration between designers and client that enabled the project’s successes and its LEED Platinum accreditation. –(December 2015) by Margaret Poe in gb&d magazine.