New Yew Dell Greenhouse Incorporates Passive Design

Work has begun on a new greenhouse for Yew Dell Gardens—one that incorporates renewable energy and other sustainable elements. But the structure’s architects say the most important elements are the simplest.

Yew Dell’s new greenhouse is meant to be a demonstration structure of different ways to build “green.” It’s powered by solar panels, and heated by geothermal energy.

As far as the architects are concerned, those features are nice, but they’re really just bells and whistles. Roberto DeLeon is a partner in Louisville’s DeLeon and Primmer Architecture Workshop.

“Those are things that almost automatically add upfront costs to any building projects, as much as 25 percent,” he said. “And for a lot of clients and not for profit groups, that’s just simply not an option.”

So DeLeon and his partner, Ross Primmer, work on incorporating elements of passive design into their work—intelligently designed buildings that aren’t just “green machines.”

The architects are interested in incorporating elements of passive design into their work—like situating a building so it absorbs as much natural light as possible.

Unlike ever-changing technology, Primmer says passive design is timeless.

Let’s focus the views and the glass along the south and the southeast and let’s block up the north and let’s take advantage of the fact that you own this property with a slope on it, and let’s find a way that if we manipulate this building we’re actually drawing cool air up through the base of the slope and into the building naturally,” he said.

And Yew Dell’s new greenhouse has several of these features. It’s built into a hill, so only the south-facing wall is exposed. Water from the roof is channeled and drained into a rain garden. And, like many greenhouses, there’s a solar shade to keep the inside from getting too warm when it’s under direct sunlight.

DeLeon and Primmer say this type of design is timeless, as well as affordable, and there are numerous opportunities for these ideas in Louisville’s architecture.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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