New Greenhouse to Open This Week

Posted: June 8, 2010 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: June 7, 2010 at 2:36 pm

By Dave Andrews

The new greenhouse. Photo by Dave Andrews

Moving ain’t easy; especially for plant life.

Last year, Mason’s greenhouse, which served as a space to grow plants used in teaching laboratories, was demolished to make room for the new Aquia Building. All of the plants were relocated to a trailer in Patriots Village, where they’ve waited patiently for the completion of a new greenhouse.

Since then, Monica Marcelli, lab and research specialist for the Department of Environmental Science and Policy and Mason’s greenhouse manager, and her assistants have been tending to the plants as often as possible to keep them alive. Many of the plants have become sick because of poor lighting and ventilation in the trailer, but most have survived.

“The last greenhouse wasn’t the most attractive building,” says Bob Jonas, chair of Environmental Science and Policy. “And it had a lot of problems, so it probably wasn’t a bad thing that it had to be torn down to make room for the new Aquia Building.”

This week, following official walkthroughs for occupancy certification, a new and improved temporary greenhouse situated between Liberty Square and Presidents Park will be open for operation. Though the building is about half the size of the old one, it will work much more efficiently.

The old greenhouse’s ventilation caused overheating in the summer and freezing in the winter. The new greenhouse has an automatic shading system that works inside the glass. The structure also features an efficient ventilation system equipped with large outlet vents and blower fans.

The unique aspects of constructing a “kit” greenhouse – one that arrives in large, pre-made pieces – delayed its completion because the component jobs were not large enough to have their own contracts. It took a significant amount of coordination between Mason workers and outside contractors to complete the work.

Jonas says that “temporary” is not quite the right word to use when speaking of the new greenhouse. It is a permanent structure, he says, but it won’t be the final location for a teaching and research greenhouse.

A new annex building that will connect to the Science and Tech I and II buildings will be built within the next five years. When the annex is complete, a larger greenhouse will be built on the roof. Growing the plants on campus saves the expense of having to purchase them elsewhere.

“That’s been the plan for a while, but we needed a place in the interim for these plants,” Jonas says. “Sadly, it took longer than expected to find the right location for this greenhouse. Finding a spot that wouldn’t be in the way of future construction and also wouldn’t require the relocation of power lines was very difficult.”

Jonas and Marcelli believe that over time they will be able to rebuild the plant collection to what it was before the move. Most of the sick plants will be moved to a different location so as not to introduce any plant disease into the new greenhouse.

“Everybody [in Environmental Science and Policy] is really excited about getting it going,” Jonas says. “Many of the teaching laboratories and research experiments we conduct would not be possible without a greenhouse.”

Once the science annex is complete, one possible use of the “temporary” greenhouse is for growing plantings for the campus grounds.

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