The Student Biodome Project began with the closure of the MSU Botany and Butterfly Greenhouse. This 22,000 square foot marvel contained a tropical room with a sixty-foot long stream flowing from a five-foot waterfall down a canyon to a small pond at the end. In the sub-tropical room there was a fishpond and more unique, exotic plants. The arid habitat room was full of large cacti and there was a 900 square foot butterfly house teeming with colorful butterflies.
Free and open to the public year round this green-space was extensively used for student activities: poetry readings, drum-circles, and concerts. The community used the greenhouse for weddings, health walks for heart patients from nearby hospitals, school field trips for K-12 students, and informal drop-in visits from many, many faculty, staff, families and students during the day.
Since the beloved facility was razed the Student Biodome Project has worked to create a new design that would encompass these social engagement functions in an advanced green technology showcase that will bring this unforgettable wonder to many communities.
In 2015 our Solar Gem Biodome design won an Energy Innovation Award. Here we combined building integrated transparent solar panels with passive solar thermal mass storage elements and seasonal evapotranspiration cooling capabilities.
In 2017 through 2019 we prepared a Preliminary Cost Assessment working through the building code requirements and American Disabilities Act standards, including the layout of the Ecological Communications Theatre.
In December 2021, we finalized our integrated water systems designs and submitted these into the EPA Campus RainWorks Challenge. The design configures the rainwater harvesting system and graywater recycling system throughout the facility. These supply the high efficiency drip irrigation system and internal pond and stream environmental system. The graywater recycling system was developed in cooperation with Colin Lennox, Director of the EcoIslands LLC.
The experience of the former Botany and Butterfly Greenhouse proves how beloved a community greenhouse can be.