Kanapaha Botanical Gardens Summer House

The Summer House at the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Alachua County, Florida, is a proposed new building that will demonstrate ‘sustainable design’ practices suitable to North Central Florida. The Summer House Project is a collaboration by the North Florida Botanical Society, the Powell Center for Construction and Environment, the Alachua County Government, and members of the local community.

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, founded in 1977, has become the second largest botanical garden in the state of Florida. Kanapaha’s mission is to be both a recreational and educational garden for the residents of North Central Florida. While Kanapaha has the botanical resources to teach others about plants and ecosystems, it does not have the facilities that can support the large numbers of people that could benefit from the gardens. The new building, Summer House, will allow Kanapaha Botanical Gardens to hold museum-quality exhibitions, workshops, conferences, and other forums, all focused on spreading knowledge about our natural environment.

Sustainable Design Principles Demonstrated in the Summer House:


The Summer House was not designed by the same process as conventional buildings. This project entailed a great deal of research to ensure that all decisions made would minimize any negative impacts on the environment and on humans. It also entailed a high level of collaboration between everyone involved. The principles of sustainable design that Summer House demonstrates are:

  • Minimize Resource Consumption
  • Protect Nature
  • Minimize Toxins in the Environment MINIMIZE RESOURCE CONSUMPTION

Some of the resources that were conserved in the Summer House were:

Fossil fuels: To reduce emissions from combustion which is known to contribute to global warming, and which contributes to urban and regional air pollution and to offset the demand for more power facilities

  • Water
  • Materials
  • Ecosystems PROTECT NATURE

The decisions that we make when designing and constructing a building affect the environment of the building site, but our decisions also affect environments that we may not be aware of. Construction waste constitutes a large percentage of all landfill waste in Alachua County. By reducing construction waste, Summer House illustrates resource efficiency, thereby preserving ecosystems that would otherwise be used as landfill space. When selecting materials for the Summer House, research was conducted to ensure that the environments that our materials came from, were not harmed. The best way to minimize waste is to reuse materials that were recovered from buildings that were slated for demolition, secondly from renewable resources or recycled products. The specific stages in the Summer House project where nature was protected were:

  • Site Design
  • Materials Selection
  • Construction MINIMIZE TOXINS IN THE ENVIRONMENT

Keeping toxic materials out of the environment is another important component of sustainable design. Toxic materials are harmful to both the natural environment and to humans. The areas that Summer House was able to minimize toxins were:

  • Indoor environmental quality A fundamental requirement for good health and productivity
  • Exterior environmental quality
  • Construction