Visitor & Administration Building

Visitor & Administration Building

On September 27, 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Borough President Helen Marshall, whose office was the lead supporter of the Sustainable Landscapes & Buildings Project, and numerous other dignitaries officially opened our Visitor & Administration Building, the most advanced green building in New York City to date. It was an auspicious event for the Garden as Mayor Bloomberg cited the Visitor & Administration Building as a major asset in the city’s PlaNYC 2030, the ambitious program to cut New York City’s carbon emissions by 30%.


Architect Joan Krevlin of BKSK Architects, designed the Visitor & Administration Building as a veritable encyclopedia of building techniques that conserve water, tap renewable energy, and work with nature to mitigate global warming. The building’s auditorium has a planted green roof that reduces urban heat-island effect, the phenomenon of buildings radiating heat at night, and minimizes storm water runoff, a serious problem in New York City. It has solar panels that generate 17% of the building’s electricity and a geothermal heating and cooling system that uses 55-degree water pumped from an aquifer to maintain the building’s climate. It also has two water recycling systems, one that uses rainwater to fill a humanmade watercourse and fountain, and a second system that cleans “graywater” from the building’s sinks and dishwasher for reuse in public toilets.

CLICK HERE to download our Sustaining the Future brochure.

CLICK HERE to download our Sustaining the Future brochure.


Water is conserved elsewhere too. The building has two composting toilets for the Garden’s staff that use 3 ounces of water with each flush, rather than the typical 3 1/2 gallons used by conventional toilets. Contents of the toilets go to a tank where microbes consume the waste, saving wear-and-tear on the City’s overburdened sewage system. With composting toilets, waterless urinals, and sink faucets that shut off automatically, the restrooms are a prime example of eco-friendly design and execution.

Graywater from the Visitor & Administration Building’s sinks, dishwashers, and shower is piped to a constructed wetland, while rainwater cascades off the terrace roof into a cleansing biotope. In both places, water is filtered and treated naturally through bacterial activity on the roots of carefully selected plants. The treated graywater is returned to the building for use in toilet flushing, while the cleansed rainwater supplies a meandering water feature and fountain.

Collecting, storing, and recycling graywater and rainwater onsite diverts it from the city’s costly, energy-intensive wastewater treatment process. These strategies also prevent the release of polluted water into local waterways during large storms, when the city’s wastewater treatment system is overwhelmed.

The Visitor & Administration Building consumes 82% less water than a conventional building of the same size.

Sustainable Systems

The Visitor & Administration Building’s orientation and long, narrow architecture allow 90% of the interior space to receive daylight and maximize natural ventilation. A geothermal system uses the earth’s constant temperature to provide seasonal heating and cooling. Rooftop photovoltaic cells transform sunlight into electricity to operate high efficiency ventilation and lighting systems.

The building’s windows open for ventilation and the exterior is covered with horizontal slats, called a brise-soleil, that “break the sun” and are a staple of architecture in hot climates. The distance between the slats is pegged to the building’s latitude: during summer, when the sun is high in the sky, the brise-soleil shades the building’s interior; during winter, the sun’s low trajectory means light can pass through the slats to help warm the rooms inside.

Overall, the Visitor & Administration Building will use approximately 40% less energy from nonrenewable sources than a typical building of its size. Every year this will prevent the release of over forty tons of the greenhouse gas CO2 into the atmosphere, the equivalent of removing nine cars from the road.


Queens Botanical Garden’s Visitor & Administration Building has earned Platinum certification under the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating System, and was the first newly constructed publicly-funded building in New York State to earn this designation.

In addition, the project has been recognized with the following honors:

  • PM Engineer Magazine Excellence in Design Award, 2009
  • Western Red Cedar Architectural Design Honor Award, 2009
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) Top Ten Green Projects Award, 2008
  • “Best in New York State” Award, AIA New York State, Inc., 2008
  • Award of Excellence, AIA New York State, Inc., 2008
  • AIA NY Chapter Building Type Awards, Sustainability Honor, 2008
  • US EPA Environmental Quality Award, 2008
  • The American Architecture Award, The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design, 2008
  • Queens Chamber of Commerce Building Award, 2007
  • New York City Green Building Design Award, 2004
  • NYC Green Apple 2008 recognition from the  Natural Resources Defense Council


Leadership Support

  • Queens Borough President’s Office
  • New York City Office of the Mayor
  • New York City Council



  • New York City Department of Cultural Affairs
  • New York City Department of Design and Construction
  • Atelier Dreiseitl, Landscape/Water Design
  • BKSK Architects, LLP
  • Conservation Design Forum, Landscape Architects
  • Katrin Scholz-Barth Consulting, Specialty Consulting Administration
  • Stonewall Contracting Corp., General Contractor
  • Queens Botanical Garden Staff: Patty Kleinberg, Susan Lacerte, Peter Sansone, Jennifer Ward Souder
  • With many thanks to the late Ashok Bhavnani for his inspiration

Photo Credits: Jess Brey, Angela Gaspar, Shari Romar, H. David Stein