Table of Contents

  1. Where did this idea come from?
  2. Where did the design come from?
  3. Where will it be?
  4. How big will it be?
  5. What will you use it for?
  6. What's the performance area for?
  7. Will the study room be Internet accessible?
  8. Will it be accessible for the disabled?
  9. What kind of lighting will be in there?
  10. What sort of plants will be in there?
  11. Will the plant-life be labeled?
  12. Will there be butterflies?
  13. Will there be birds?
  14. Will there be fish?
  15. How tall is the waterfall?
  16. Who can go there?
  17. What will the hours be?
  18. How much will it cost to go in?
  19. Is this project going to support itself financially?
  20. How much will it cost, us, the university, tuition?
  21. Is the community going to be able to get involved?
  22. Additional Information

1. Where did this idea come from?

It was suggested as a compromise by Beth Hawald at a public forum on October 8, 1997. The Student Environmental Action Committee had organized a meeting between students, faculty, community members and administrators to discuss and attempt to save the Botany Butterfly Greenhouse. The administrators present had emphasized throughout the evening that it was impossible to save or renovate the old greenhouse. At one point Beth raised her hand and when called on said, "The university's plan for a new greenhouse decades from now, south of the railroad tracks, leaves behind everything we use and love about the Butterfly greenhouse. If it's impossible to save, couldn't you just let us build a new greenhouse back there, where everybody can get to it and knows to go". Fred Poston, then Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, now Vice President of Operations and Finance, the top administrator present, embraced the idea on the spot. It was agreed between the University administrators, students and community present that there would be a Student Greenhouse constructed on the site of the soon to be demolished Butterfly greenhouse provided the students could raise all the money and do all of the labor to make it happen.

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2. Where did the design come from?

The Dome

In an effort to utilize student creativity and encourage continuing community involvement there was a public design contest in the spring of 1999. Three of the top design submissions were combined and from those the Student Greenhouse Project's plans for the Bio-dome were developed. The design proved to be a particularly high caliber choice with many inherent advantages. You can tour and read a detailed description of the interior features and planning concepts.

Greenhouse Design Contest - spring '99

In the interest of uniqueness, creativity, and continued student involvement, the Student Design Contest was conducted in the spring semester of 1999.

Barry Stiefel was the first place winner for the exterior design:

Barry L. Stiefel, an Ann Arbor native, attended Michigan State University from 1998-2001, and graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Environmental Policy and a cognate in Anthropology. During his freshman year at Akers Hall, he saw the posting in the State News for the Student Greenhouse Project, and decided to submit a design based on his architectural experiences in High School and his interests in the natural environment. Since graduating from MSU he has received his Masters in Urban Planning with an Environmental Planning specialization from the University of Michigan, and a Graduate Certificate in Historic Preservation from Eastern Michigan University. Currently, he is in New Orleans working on a Ph.D. at Tulane University. He enjoys ecology, history, and improving the quality of the human experience, and hopes to combine these attributes into a career one-day.

Wes Ozier had the second place design for the performance area:

While at Michigan State University Wes Ozier studied and received a BA in Pre-Law Studies. Growing up the son of a practicing architect he was always exposed to, and had some basic training in architectural design. While working at the MSU library as a night janitor he discovered the book "Arcology: City In The Image of Man" by Dr.Paolo Soleri. This book opened him to new concepts of the urban condition and how to improve it through ecological, green and sustainable design.

The Plant Biology and Entomology Butterfly House, was one of his favorite places on Campus. Stating his experience in Fall semester of 1997 he said, "I was highly upset when I heard it was going to be torn down, but my upset turned to excitement when I saw the competition to re-design it. Taking some influences from my father's work and the greenhouse design concepts of Paolo Soleri I entered the Student Greenhouse Design Competition."

Since leaving MSU he decided he needed to follow his passion. So he moved to Arizona and worked for Dr.Soleri as the Workshops Program Director for the Arcosanti Project from 2000 until 2004. Currently, he is the Operations Manager for the Ecosa Institute located in Prescott, Arizona, where they teach ecological and sustainable design. His plans are to enter graduate school to receive a Masters Degree in Sustainable Studies.

He also writes a monthly Green Column for a newspaper in Flagstaff, called The Noise.

And Tim Krause got third place for the split level design concept.

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3. Where will it be?

We've moved from the former site of the Horticulture/Botany greenhouse behind the Old Horticulture to a new site on the 2020 Vision Campus Master Plan located a little west of Shaw Hall on Farm Lane

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4. How big will it be?

The present design is for a 150 foot diameter dome, 75 feet tall. The interior area would be 17,600 square feet. The two levels of space created by the rooms buried under the north ridge terrain feature bring the usable area in the dome up to 19,600 square feet. The 150 foot diameter size fits comfortably on the site and provides more capacity for plantings and enlarged activity areas.

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5. What will you use it for?

Primarily it is a place of warm inviting nearby nature for visitors, local community members, on-campus students and staff to revive themselves. Among the waterfalls and lush plants there will also be a study room and a performance area, so we can provide a beautiful setting for student activities, studying, or concerts and events. In addition to mental restoration and social functions there are plans for many educational experiences, as well as environmental symposia and informational programs.

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6. What's the performance area for?

The performance area is for concerts, plays, poetry readings, etc. and is a gathering area where displays or dinners could be setup. The backdrop for the performance area is a 16 foot tall stone cliff that also functions as one of the solar heat absorbers. The top of the cliff will have emplacements to attach a screen to pull down for movies and sets for putting up a banister for a "balcony window" spot for theater sets. The study room behind the cliff has its entrance positioned so it can serve as a backstage area or a dressing room.

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7. Will the study room be Internet accessible?

From the large survey (n=3040) completed in 2002, we learned that students felt the study room would be more useful if it provided Internet, so we are planning for wireless capability.

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8. Will it be accessible for the disabled?

The greenhouse is designed to be fully accessible. The paths are wide enough for two wheel chairs to pass. The bridges are even wider allowing people to pass without disturbing anyone stopped or leaning and looking out. There are numerous turnouts as well. There are frequent level places along the ascending path that leads up over the waterfalls. In addition we have planned aromatic plants to scent the air and enhance the experience of individuals with other disabilities.

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9. What kind of lighting will be in there?

In the study room, restrooms, office and workroom there will be standard overhead room lighting. In the dome, to maintain the "outdoor garden" ambiance there will be garden style path lights. The performance area will have floods and spots and an overhead theater lighting bar. There will also be lights illuminating the upper waterfall at night.

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10. What sort of plants will be in there?

We plan to create a small tropical valley under the dome, with a canyon, waterfalls, stream and a pond. The choice of tropical plants adds uniqueness. Tropical plants are necessary because they will not drop their leaves in the winter, as local plants are conditioned to do. We plan to have trees reaching up and forming a canopy forty feet overhead with flowers and other understory plants thickly filling spaces below.

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11. Will the plant-life be labeled?

The plants will be labeled. To increase the learning opportunities we plan to offer sense hikes and fruit walks so visitors will be actively educated and directly introduced to and experience the plants.

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12. Will there be butterflies?

Maybe, maybe not. Butterflies are expensive and high maintenance, because they require rotating beds of nectar plants to keep a supply of those in bloom, which we may not be able to do.

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13. Will there be birds?

We are planning birds like Meijer Gardens, specifically humming birds, if possible.

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14. Will there be fish?

Definitely. Several of our members and interested faculty are working on the details of the aquatic life in the Biodome. We are also considering frogs.

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15. How tall is the waterfall?

The Upper Falls will be fourteen feet tall. There are actually two waterfalls in the plan, the Lower Falls will be a picturesque, two feet tall.

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16. Who can go there?

The Biodome is for public use. We welcome on campus students and staff, members of the local community, visitors and children from all over the state.

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17. What will the hours be?

Normal business hours are from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Also open on the weekends from 10:00 am to 6:00pm. To provide more opportunity for people to enjoy the beautiful garden we will also be open in the evenings. Monday through Wednesday are study nights, we plan to be open until 11:00 in the evenings, open to the public, but various areas will be reserved for student meetings and study groups. Thursday and Friday evenings the doors will close at 5:00 but re-open for student activities and events scheduled for the evenings. Saturday and Sunday evenings are intended for concerts or other rental uses. Doors will close at 6:00 and re-open for scheduled events.

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18. How much will it cost to go in?

During normal business hours on weekdays our intention is to have the Biodome free and open to the public at no charge. This would include Monday through Wednesday evenings. On weekends we are planning to charge an admittance fee of $5.00. Evening event prices at the door would vary with the program offered.

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19. Is this project going to support itself financially?

Yes. Our projected annual budget and receipts balance sheet developed with assistance from Frederik Meijer Gardens, the Des Moine Botanical Center, the Department of Botany greenhouses and the MSU Alumni Memorial Chapel indicate we will have a self supporting facility. We anticipate income from weekend entrance fees, co-sponsoring student events, rentals and weddings.

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20. How much will it cost, us, the university, tuition?

The present cost estimate for the facility is $1,530,000. The construction costs will be funded through public donations only, no money will come from university funds or tuition increases.

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21. Is the community going to be able to get involved?

This is a community / public project. Students, faculty and interested community members have been working to bring the project to completion. More community involvement is always welcome. Time and expertise fundraising, planning, and in construction are areas where valuable contributions can be made to the success of this project. Interested individuals click here for contact information.

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Additional Information

If you have any questions that you feel would be helpful to have included in this list please let us know in an email - [studentgreenhouse at gmail.com].