The Botanical Research Institute of Texas is a premier learning environment that promotes conservation, sustainability, and steward- ship of the land. Its mission is to conserve our natural heritage by deepening our knowledge of the plant world and teach the value plants bring to life. Housed in this 70,000 square foot facility is a herbarium collection
that contains over 1,050,000 plant specimens and a library with over 93,000 books and journals. The nonprofit organization serves as a research site for local scientists and an educational tool for the community.
BRIT’s building is only one of eight in the state of Texas to earn the platinum certification in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System. The campus incorporates many sustainable and energy saving features including the use of locally salvaged building materials, natural building lighting, low-energy fixtures, low-VOC materials, geothermal wells and solar panels, rain gardens and cisterns, led outdoor lighting, and indigenous plant material. These practices result in estimated energy savings of $37,000 per year, which is 50% higher than energy code recommendations.
One of BRIT’s featured sustainability projects is their vegetated, living roof. It utilizes the thin soils common to the Fort Worth Prairie Barrens and is designed with grasses and plants native to Fort Worth’s grassland prairies. Research indicates that plants of this region tolerate drought conditions better than plants of prairies with deeper soils. The 19,000 square foot living roof provides many benefits including: improved insulation, reducing rainwater runoff, increasing the life of the roof, transforming carbon dioxide into oxygen, and offering an ever changing habitat for plants, insects, and birds. Constructed on a 10% incline, the designers employed the use of 5,700+ biodegradable trays containing the soil mix and plants; they were lifted to the rooftop via conveyor belt and laid down like tile. As the roots grow and interlock, they bind together forming a cohesive root system.
Paramount to the success of the vegetated roof is the use of a local product from Texas Industries called expanded shale. The material was blended into the native soil along with a commercial growing medium and has had great success in rooftops and landscape beds because of its ability to absorb water and slowly release it back into the soil. Expanded shale is a lightweight aggregate that is inert, durable and highly porous. It does not degrade or oat as other soil amendments do. It’s a mainstay in clay soils because it reduces compaction while increasing soil porosity and drainage. Expanded shale was also used beneath the biotrays as part of the drainage system to capture runoff where it was eventually diverted to a nearby pond for reuse.