Mt. Cuba Center

Hockessin, Delaware

Net-zero energy horticulture center for nationally recognized native plant sanctuary

In three words:

Net-Zero Energy,
Native Plants,
Long Life Loose Fit

Mt. Cuba Center’s 2018 master plan aims to facilitate their transition from a private estate to a public garden that inspires an appreciation for the beauty and value of native plants and the habitats that sustain them.  The first phase of the master plan, led by Re:Vision, is focused on operational improvements that facilitate plant production and a substantial increase in visitors.  This work includes accessibility upgrades in historic formal gardens, increased parking capacity, and constructing a new greenhouse and headhouse complex.  The greenhouse and headhouse replace outdated facilities from he 1960’s which house Mt. Cuba’s renowned native plant horticulture program. The new net-zero facility is a flexible and durable building designed to support Mt. Cuba’s evolving horticulture program for decades to come.

Fast Facts

Construction Completion Summer 2022

Designed to achieve Net-Zero Energy for greenhouse and headhouse operations

Headhouse roof and parking canopy contain a 165 kW PV array which will provide 125% of the annual energy use

Energy efficient lighting, an opaque and insulated north wall, and insulated stem walls help the greenhouse conserve energy

Designed with durable and low-embodied carbon materials

Rainwater harvesting is used for on-site irrigation

Greening a Greenhouse

Did you know that the average greenhouse uses 5 times as much energy per square foot as a commercial office building?  While we think of greenhouses as passive buildings which use sunlight to warm and grow plants, the reality is that our region’s cold dark winters require a massive amount of energy to keep a glass box tempered and high intensity grow lights on short days to extend growing time.

Knowing that net-zero energy was a project goal from the beginning, our integrated design team worked iteratively with energy modeling tools to optimize the greenhouse for growing and energy conservation.  Key strategies included using insulated opaque assemblies at the north facade and at stem walls on all sides, as well as providing light and heat locally at planting tables where plants are being grown instead of globally.  The result – a 70% energy savings over a conventional greenhouse!

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