Life Sciences begins move to new $4 million greenhouses

By on October 4, 2011.

Just in time to protect their plants from the approaching winter weather, professors and researchers with Plant and Wildlife Sciences began moving into a new greenhouse facility near Kiwanis Park on Tuesday afternoon.

The facility is still under construction, but the department got permission to begin moving some more sensitive specimens into one of the three greenhouse wings to protect the plants from the cool nighttime temperatures threatening the plants in the old greenhouses. The heating pipes that control the temperature in the old greenhouses were damaged by construction crews in June, according to Rebecca Scholl, the Life Sciences safety and compliance facilitator who is overseeing the move. The department had hoped to have the new greenhouses finished before the weather cooled, but a wet spring delayed construction, she said, leaving the department with unfinished greenhouses at one site and unheated greenhouses at another.

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BYU's new greenhouses, located on 1000 N. 823 E., are almost completed. Researchers will be moving their plants into the new facility soon.

“We’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Scholl said.

The department began work on the new greenhouses last November, according to research and mentoring facilities supervisor Earl Hansen. The new greenhouses not only give professors and researchers more growing room, but also feature extensive, automated climate control in each ro0m — everything from the amount and duration of light to temperature of the air and water can be adjusted — and measures such as using multiple sheets of polycarbonate instead of glass to make the greenhouses’ operation more efficient.

“It’s really a big, high-tech piece of equipment,” Hansen said. “It will be a wonderful facility when we figure out the climate control.”

The new facility also has air conditioning in the headhouse — a luxury not present in the old headhouse, where Hansen’s office is currently located — and a special room that will contain an indoor landscape complete with mature trees and a water feature for landscape design students. Altogether, the new facility will cost about $4 million once finished, Hansen said.

Hansen estimated the new greenhouses would be visited by more than 1,000 students each semester and will accommodate classes ranging in topic from plant physiology and biology to landscape design.

BYU’s greenhouse facilities were last updated 17 years ago, and the technology present in the new facility will allow researchers to work on experiments not possible at the old greenhouses. The new facility will replace those greenhouses as BYU continues to renovate the southern portion of campus, according James Porter, associate dean of the College of Life Sciences.