Conservation and Stewardship
“What obligation is more binding than to protect the cherished, to defend whoever or whatever cannot defend itself, and to nurture in turn that which has given nourishment?
― Richard Nelson, The Island Within
The San Antonio Botanical Garden is committed to practicing and teaching the many ways that we can conserve South Texas’ most precious resources. The Garden’s expansion will continue to communicate the message of environmental stewardship that is so important in our growing city. The design plans incorporate the principles and standards of Low Impact Development, Sustainable Park Design, and Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED).
Low Impact Development emphasizes conservation and use of on-site natural features to protect water quality. Topography, weather patterns, geology, soil science, and plant/animal relationships have influenced and informed the design solutions and plant selection. Conveyance of stormwater to vegetated rain gardens and bioswales will reduce civil infrastructure, downstream flooding, and the need for irrigation. Permaculture is also an important part of the design approach. Making use of prevailing southern winds and siting structures with appropriate solar orientations will help cool the site. Large quantities of canopy trees will help increase shaded areas and overall visitor comfort. Manipulation of topography will help create microclimates which can help conserve water and establish a variety of diverse animal habitats and plant niches.
Sustainable Park Design promotes the preservation of natural resources and improving the quality of life for community residents. Development of these additional eight acres will use renewable and local materials wherever possible and is redeveloping previously residential areas to improve the quality of life for all San Antonio residents. We are using natural elements such as locally sourced logs and limbs for building, loose dirt and sand for digging, rock outcroppings mimicking dry creek beds for exploring, rolling hills and grassy areas for rolling and running, and heavily shaded treed areas that foster imagination. Local stone, aggregate, FSC certified wood, and salvaged concrete curbs will also be used. The project preserves most of the mature trees from the site and adds a significant number of new trees to create shade and combat the heat island effect. The San Antonio Botanical Garden is known for showcasing the diversity of plant life that can thrive in South Texas climate conditions and will continue in this role, showcasing vibrant native plants.
LEED certification calls for a number of high impact strategies that reduce energy consumption, use renewable energy resources, and reduce water usage to improve sustainability. In the new buildings we are targeting Gold level certification. Included in the plan are upgraded energy efficient mechanical systems, energy efficient lighting systems, passive solar lighting, high efficiency plumbing fixtures, high performance glass, and high performance building insulation. A 31 kW solar PV array on the roof of the Goldsbury Foundation Pavilion will offset 30 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. This is equivalent to the CO2 sequestered by 28.4 acres of forests in a year, or the CO2 that would be created by burning 31,992 pounds of coal each year. In addition to expanding our use of recycled “purple pipe” water, rainwater and air conditioning condensate catchment systems will harvest water from both the Discovery Center and the outdoor pavilion, with a 20,000 gallon underground cistern in the Culinary Garden holding water for later use.
A major goal of the expansion is to encourage stewardship of natural and cultural resources by bringing to life many of the natural resources that are essential to the South Texas bioregions. The Edwards Aquifer System and its seeps, springs, and caverns are essential to the region. By engaging children and families in understanding this regional water system through play, programming, and signage, the garden will encourage conservation of this precious resource. Similarly, grassy plains, rocky outcroppings, and woodlands will all be showcased in the garden, and programming, playscapes, and interpretive signage will help carry the messages of conservation on to visitors of all ages.