Hockessin’s Mt. Cuba Center is breaking ground on a new, sustainable greenhouse and plant production space. The organization plans to use the space to conduct native plant research, propagation, and production.
Mt. Cuba’s current greenhouse was completed in 1962 to produce floral plants for Pamela and Lammot du Pont Copeland’s home. In the early 2000s, the greenhouse transitioned to being used to produce native plants.
“While Mt. Cuba grows plants for its gardens, it is also involved in growing plants for other research studies and institutions,” said George Coombs, director of horticulture at Mt. Cuba. “Greenhouse technology has also changed greatly, becoming much more efficient and sustainable. New facilities will help Mt. Cuba to contribute and share knowledge with the native plant community.”
In addition to the greenhouse, construction will also begin on a new Woodland Glade garden, welcome center and guest parking lot to open in Spring 2022. Completion of the greenhouse is expected for winter 2022.
Mt. Cuba’s greenhouse will run primarily on renewable energy with the aim of achieving net zero energy status, meaning it will create as much energy as it uses over the course of the year.
“Picture a huge glass box that you want to keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and you can easily imagine why this is difficult,” said James Rockwell, greenhouse and nursery production manager. “We will use green energy sources, such as on-site solar power and geothermal heating and cooling to reach our goal of net-zero energy.”
The 7,700 square foot greenhouse and 7,600 square foot head house support building will feature a passively cooled, open roof design to provide optimal light and climate for the native plants grown in the facility. There will be five different temperature zones including 1,200 square feet of propagation space.
“As a leader in native plants, Mt. Cuba looks to make all habitats, indoors and outdoor, supportive of our ecosystem and natural resources,” Coombs said. “This helps to protect the quality of life for humans and wildlife.”
The greenhouse and support building’s orientation and roof configuration were specially designed to maximize solar production. Solar panels are expected to create enough energy to offset the buildings’ energy consumption.
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