Who Will Stop the Rain?

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    • A rain garden on the north side of the Visitor Center is planted with different cultivars of black gum trees. Photo by Sarah Schmidt. A rain garden on the north side of the Visitor Center is planted with different cultivars of black gum trees. Photo by Sarah Schmidt.
    • The Atrium's green roof offers multiple environmental benefits. Photo by Elizabeth Ennis.The Atrium's green roof offers multiple environmental benefits. Photo by Elizabeth Ennis.
    • Landscaped berms and new and existing tree beds will help capture rainwater. Photo by Sarah Schmidt.Landscaped berms and new and existing tree beds will help capture rainwater. Photo by Sarah Schmidt.
    • A rain garden on the south side of the Visitor Center is planted with different cultivars of sweet bay trees. Photo by Sarah Schmidt.
A rain garden on the south side of the Visitor Center is planted with different cultivars of sweet bay trees. Photo by Sarah Schmidt.
    • Amsonia hubrichtii (thread-leaf bluestar) in the Visitor's Center Rain Gardens. Photo by Morrigan McCarthy. Amsonia hubrichtii (thread-leaf bluestar) in the Visitor's Center Rain Gardens. Photo by Morrigan McCarthy.

    As construction of BBG’s new Visitor Center nears completion, crews are planting sweet bay and black gum trees, grasses, and wildflowers in the three sunken rain gardens in the building’s surrounding plaza. These gardens will certainly be beautiful, but they’re not just for looks. They’re actually part of an innovative storm-water management system that also includes the building’s living roof, its landscaped berms, and the new and existing tree beds along Washington Avenue. The system is expected to capture all of the rain that falls on the space—hundreds of thousands of gallons each year.

    Systems like these are a relatively new green building technique, and this one is particularly ambitious—it’s probably the first in New York City designed to fully collect all the precipitation that hits it. Rain falling on the building and plaza will soak into the roof or berms or run into the rain gardens, where most will be taken up by the soil and plants. Any overflow will be directed into the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. Not only will this conserve water for irrigation, it will prevent it from flowing into New York City’s overtaxed sewer system, which will help keep local waterways clean. It will also serve as a model for similar systems. Be sure to see for yourself. The Visitor Center will be open to the public at noon May 16!


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