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Scott Arboretum Opens New Wister Education Center and Greenhouse

Scott Arboretum Opens New Wister
Education Center and Greenhouse

by Michael Lott

Wister Center
The Wister Center nearing completion

The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College has opened the new Wister Education Center and Greenhouse facility. The 5,200 square-foot structure contains a classroom for public education, space for horticultural displays, a greenhouse for plant cultivation, and a support location for the arboretum’s many volunteers. "At last we have a space designed for hands-on horticultural educational programs, where soil and pots, plants and people can flourish," said Claire Sawyers, director of the arboretum.

Construction and design of the Wister Center focused on innovative energy efficient green building techniques. In recognition of this, the building project received a "Green Building of America" award from Real Estate & Construction Review. The arboretum hopes that the building will receive silver level LEED certification; to this end, a team of LEED and Green Advantage accredited professionals was consulted throughout the planning and building process.

Claire Sawyers
Claire Sawyers, director of the Scott Arboretum, speaks at the Wister Center's opening.

One step towards LEED certification was the reuse of Metasequoia glyptostroboides (dawn redwood) trees that were cut down during the construction of Alice Paul Hall, which opened in 2005. The harvested trees were made into shingles that were used for over three quarters of the siding of the Wister Center. Another building technique involved the use of concrete containing fly ash, a byproduct of coal-fired power plants that is usually dumped in landfills.

The building also uses an energy-efficient lighting system. The design opens the building to daylight as much as possible using large windows and “light tubes” that bring light down through the ceiling. Energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs are controlled by occupancy sensors and a building-wide timing system. A green roof is planned, and storm water runoff is directed into a cistern used for watering plants surrounding the building.

The nonprofit group Innovation Philadelphia recently profiled the Wister Center, calling it the "basis of a case study in sustainability."