The Regenstein Learning Center at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

How We Dreamed Green: Platinum LEED Honor

We dreamed green, from the moment we started planning the Learning Center on the Regenstein Learning Campus—in every solar panel we placed, in every window we installed, in every cleaning product we used. Recently, the hard work brought us national recognition.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is pleased that the U.S. Green Building Council has awarded the top rating of Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) to the Learning Center, which opened in September 2016. The designation means that the Garden is recognized as a leader in the green building movement. Of 51,875 projects in the United States that has earned LEED status since 2004, only 10.7 percent have been awarded platinum recognition.

Natural daylight from clerestory windows illuminates the building's main hallway.
Natural daylight from clerestory windows illuminates the Learning Center’s main hallway.

Sustainability Features

People of all ages and abilities connect with the natural world in the programs, classes, and events through the Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School of the Chicago Botanic Garden, based at the Learning Center. In every single decision we made before opening the Center’s doors, we applied the same sustainability standards that we use for our gardens: How do we save water and energy? What is the best way to reduce our environmental footprint?

Solar panels (like these on the Children's Growing Garden next door) supply 16 percent of the Regenstein Learning Center's electricity.
Solar panels (like these on the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden next door) supply 16 percent of the  Learning Center’s electricity.

Here are some of the ways we did so, with the help of architects Booth Hansen & Associates and the Rocky Mountain Institute, which provided sustainability counsel. The Learning Center uses the following:

  • A rainwater capture and storage system (the rainwater is used to water the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden)
  • 83 solar panels, which generate 16 percent of the building’s electricity
  • Environmentally friendly cleaning products, and paints, adhesives, and sealings with low amounts of chemicals that could harm indoor air quality 
  • 90 percent natural daylight
  • Special windows to deter bird collisions

Even outside the Learning Center, we made sure to think local and sustainable in the Nature Play Garden, with climbing boulders from Wisconsin and as many native plants as possible—not as part of the LEED certification, but as part of our environmental ethos.

“We are an organization that cares deeply about conservation and sustainability. When it comes to our buildings, we embrace energy-efficient construction practices that mitigate environmental impact,” said Jean M. Franczyk, the Garden’s president and CEO.

©2017 Chicago Botanic Garden and

Published by

Renee T.

Renee T. is an editor at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

7 thoughts on “How We Dreamed Green: Platinum LEED Honor”

  1. How great to learn all about how the new Learning Campus is not only beautiful, but smart too!
    Makes me proud to work at the Garden.

    1. Thank you so much! We love the natural feel of the Learning Center and are thrilled to be part of the flourishing green building movement.

  2. Congrats, but I wonder if there’s one aspect of “sustainability” that might be missing: “safe rooms” for all occupants per FEMA 320 and FEMA 361. I look forward to an answer.

    1. Thank you for your interest in the Garden. We conduct an annual Enterprise Risk Management review and evaluate all areas of the Garden, which includes a review of the severe weather plan. Members of the Garden staff are trained to direct people to safety in the event of severe weather. Our severe weather plan was evaluated and approved by the Department of Homeland Security and local emergency responding agencies during a recent tabletop exercise.

  3. I am interested in the cleaning products that you tested. Is this information available? Also the paints that were tested.

    1. We appreciate your interest in the Learning Center. We use Green Seal-certified products, which have been evaluated for safety to human health and the environment, and for sustainability. We use a variety of paints with no or low Volatile Organic Compounds.

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