VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Center

Additional resources

Visit the VanDusen Botanical Garden website; 604.257.8335. View photos on Flickr by VanDusen Gardens.

For more information contact: Ron Schwenger of Architek Sustainable Building Projects at: [email protected]; ZinCo Canada to: [email protected] or visit

Learn more about Architek SBP and Soprema in the directory.

Case studies

Perkins + Will; Connect Landscape Architecture (formerly Sharp and Diamond Landscape Architects); Architek; ZinCo; International Institute of the Living Future; ARCHITECT; Alucobond; City of Vancouver.


Watch the video from August 10, 2021 at 2:40 am from the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Center – Featured Project by on the greenroofsTV channel on YouTube; September 7, 2018 2:39 am VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Center by Perkins and Will on vimeo.

The VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Center was a featured project at Greenroofs & Walls of the World ™ Virtual Summit 2017, highlighted in the video “Top 10 eco-agents of green infrastructure in a climate changing world” by Linda Velazquez. Watch the 2:40 a.m. VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Center Project of the Week video on 05/30/2017 from on the greenroofsTV channel on YouTube.

See VanDusen’s green roof installation through time-lapse photography from the 1:33 Projects in Place Society with Houston Landscapes published November 17, 2011; May 2, 2011 VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Center seen at the Vancouver Art Gallery, WE: Vancouver –12 Manifestos for the City 8:59 video by BusbyPerkins + Will on YouTube.


August 10, 2021 Project presented: VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Center by Linda Velazquez on; May 31, 2021 The Many Gifts of Cornelia Oberlander in Vancouver by Susan Herrington in; Project of the week May 30, 2017: VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Center by Linda Velazquez; May 16, 2016 Perkins + Will Receives First Living Building Challenge Certification Press Release; May 19, 2015 Can Regenerative Design Save the Planet? by Anthony Flint in Bloomberg CityLab;
September 17, 2013 VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Center – Net zero building designed to meet the Living Building Challenge system by Jim Huffman in Sustainable Architecture and Building Magazine; March 21, 2012 The magnificent visitor center of the VanDusen botanical garden with the green roof of Canada is now open to the public by Diane Pham in Inhabitat; and on October 21, 2011, the $ 21.9 million VanDusen Visitor Center opens by Steve Whysall at the Vancouver Sun.

Located in the heart of Vancouver, British Columbia, the spectacular 22-hectare (55-acre) VanDusen Botanical Garden is internationally recognized for its beauty and leadership in plant conservation, biodiversity and sustainability.

Opened in 1975, the mission of the VanDusen Public Botanical Garden is to inspire understanding of the vital importance of plants to all life through the excellence of our botanical collections, programs and practices.

In early December 2007, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation and the VanDusen Botanical Garden Association selected the design team of Busby Perkins + Will and landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander to develop a master plan for the 55-acre cultivated garden. Landscape architects Sharp and Diamond (now Connect Landscape Architecture) collaborated with Cornelia Oberlander.

The Certified Petal 2016 net-zero building was designed to meet the Living Building Challenge, one of the first buildings in Canada to receive this certification, and includes solar hot water, photovoltaic panels, geothermal drilling and a magnificent living roof.

Designed to exceed LEED Platinum standards, LEED® Canada-NC 1.0 Platinum Certified, the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Center uses renewable sources found on-site to achieve net zero energy each year. The main building material is wood which stores carbon dioxide for the life of the building. The photovoltaic system on the roof creates electricity for the Center, and the hot water is supplied by a biomass boiler fueled by dry wood waste collected in the surrounding area. 100% of the water use comes from collected precipitation or reused water – rainwater is filtered and used for the gray water needs of the Center and 100% of black water is treated by the bioreactor on place, the first of its kind in Vancouver, and discharged into a new percolating field in the garden.

“The green roof of the Vandusen Visitor Center had to meet Living Building Challenge standards, including no irrigation, and the green roof has been remarkably strong over the years. ~ Ron Schwenger, Architek Sustainable Construction Projects, 2021

The design of the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Center was inspired by the leaves and flower of an orchid. The wavy green roofs are located on the “petals” and are planted with colorful grasses and bulbs. The circular space of the multi-petal structure is surmounted by a daylit oculus with a slope of over 45 degrees which also serves as a solar chimney that expels hot air. The vegetated earth ramp connects the green roof to the ground plan, promoting use by local fauna and promoting biodiversity.

“Inspired by organic forms and natural systems, the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Center seeks to create a harmonious balance between architecture and landscape, both visually and ecologically. The dynamic one-story structure features an innovative prefabricated roof form that appears to float above the building’s curved adobe and concrete walls. Metaphorically representing swaying petals, the building’s shape blends harmoniously into a central oculus and the surrounding landscape.

Located at the southeast corner of the Garden, the 19,000 square foot visitor center transforms the entrance to the site to raise public awareness of the Garden, its conservation mandate and the importance of nature. The building houses a cafe, library, volunteer facilities, garden center, offices and flexible classrooms / rental spaces. ~ Perkins + Will

Architek provided assistance in the design and supervision of the installation of the complex green roof systems. VanDusen has three distinct green roof sections: the Landbridge, a relatively flat semi-intensive area; The petals where Architek used a gently sloping green roof system with shear barriers; and the Oculus – a steeply sloping area in the center that forced Architek to use a custom shear barrier and soil erosion design.

With slopes ranging from 2 degrees to 50 degrees, this project used three different green roof systems. On the roof of the low-sloping land bridge, the “ZinCo Perennial Garden” with Floradrain FD40 and 20 cm of growing medium was installed. The sloping petal green roofs were built with the “ZinCo Sloping Meadow” system comprising Floraset FS75 and 20cm of growing medium. And the oculus roof with a slope of more than 45 degrees was installed with the “ZinCo Steep Sloping Meadow” system comprising the Georaster elements and 12 cm of growing medium. The entire green roof was seeded with local grasses and planted with bulbs native to the region.

On May 16, 2016, the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Center received the Petal Living Building Challenge â„¢ (LBC) certification from the International Living Future Institute. The awards include: 2017 Green Roofs Excellence Award for Healthy Cities; 2014 World Architecture Most Sustainable Building Award; 2014 SAB Green Building Award; 2013 International Green Roof Association, Green Roof Leadership Award; Environmental Excellence Award, Finalist for Excellence in Urban Sustainability, 2013 GLOBE; Wood Innovation Prize, 2013; 2013 Wood WORKS! British Columbia Wood Design Award; Winner of the Engineering Award, 2012 World Architecture News; Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Merit of British Columbia, 2012 Architectural Institute of British Columbia.

“The historic visitor center connects people to 21st century environmental issues including water and energy conservation, reuse and recycling, the beauty of our native plant ecology and a healthier way to build and design. ” ~ Connect landscape architecture

Its orchid-inspired roof design by the late iconic landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander (May 2021) embodies the biophilic nature of the VanDusen Visitor Center in Vancouver, British Columbia, and is a revolutionary architectural marvel of living architecture with its green and blue roof. The Vancouver Parks Board is currently maintaining the green roofs of the VanDusen Visitor Center.

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