Life Sciences Building gets an interior makeover

BYU staff discussing where to place plants around the new Life Sciences Building. Professor Norah Hunter played a major role in organizing and adding life through greenery to the Life Sciences building. (Bryan Pearson)
BYU staff discuss where to place plants around the new Life Sciences Building. Professor Norah Hunter played a major role in organizing the LSB’s live greenery. (Bryan Pearson)

Students and staff from BYU coordinated efforts to landscape the interior of the new Life Sciences Building through the month of October, a project that required the management of more than 300 varieties of plants.

Norah T. Hunter, a professor who has taught floral design and interior plants and landscapes for 32 years in BYU’s plant and wildlife sciences department, was thrilled to move into the new, beautiful Life Science Building this past summer.

The LSB was completed in Spring 2014 and is situated on the south end of the university. It is the most recent addition to BYU campus, housing the biology, microbiology and molecular biology, physiology and developmental biology, plant and wildlife sciences and health science departments.

Hunter played a major role in creating and implementing an interior design plan for the LSB.

She submitted lists of fitting plants to the deans of the college for their consideration, as well as several different proposals. She also drew up landscape plans for each floor, including herself and her students as resources. Her plan was to have her interior plants students install, water and maintain the plants throughout the year as part of their class assignments.

Only plants that met specific requirements were chosen to furnish the LSB.

“All plants … were chosen based on their ecological benefits and high rating that included ease of growth, care and maintenance, capability of maintaining or thriving in low light, resistance to pests, efficiency at removing chemical vapors from the air, transpiration rates and general aesthetics,” Hunter said.

Plants were ordered from growers in Florida. Two 53-foot semi-trailer trucks came to BYU on two separate days to deliver the greenery, which was then situated in the Life Sciences Building as quickly as possible.

“It was a race against time to get the plants into the building, get them watered and get them planted so they could recover from the stress of transport,” Hunter said.

Students, staff and workers had to come up with ideas to move the larger plants that wouldn’t fit into the service elevator around the building. Workers rented a piece of machinery with a lift and straps to hoist the trees in a horizontal position and slowly and carefully installed them into their large pots.

New plants and trees adorn the Life Sciences building bringing in new life. (Bryan Pearson)
New plants and trees adorn the Life Sciences building bringing in new life. (Bryan Pearson)

Hunter has experience with interior design on a national level. She has attended and been involved in National Interiorscape network conventions and served on a national interior plants committee.

She was involved in planning meetings during the building’s construction, and she advocated putting living plants throughout the LSB.

“Green plants enhance the interior, providing a healthier, more attractive and welcoming environment,” Hunter said.

She and Earl Hansen, manager of the Life Sciences Greenhouse, met with deans of the Life Sciences College and went on walks through the building. They discussed lobby and atrium areas that were suitable for plants.

“Several of the deans were concerned about keeping balance with the architecture, clean lines, color scheme, design and atmosphere of the building,” Hunter said. “And College Dean Rodney Brown expressed his desire that every plant in the building be not only beautiful but also educational.”

Hunter typed up a listing of the plants and sent them off to a company that manufactures plant identification metal signs with QR codes that make it easy for anyone with a smartphone to scan the code and get more information online.

The site will also link to BYU and the Life Sciences College, the plant and wildlife sciences department, the landscape management major and the Landscape Club.

Students taking the PWS 213 Interior Plants class will be responsible for adding photos and information for each plant and maintaining the site.

The interior landscaping was completed quickly to be ready for the planned visit from former BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson and for subsequent meetings with the current BYU President, Kevin J Worthen, and the president’s council.

The meeting has been postponed, but it’s good to know that the LSB is ready to go scholastically and visually, thanks to the work of Hunter, her students, staff and faculty who worked to bring the interior design plans, and plants, together.

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