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Construction & Design

Cooper Robertson-designed Edible Academy providing food for thought in eco-education

For the next big thing in urban gardening and healthy kids, look to a 127-year-old New York landmark better known for orchids and roses.

Opening on June 14 at the historic New York Botanical Garden, the Edible Academy is a new, state-of-the-art facility that expands the existing Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden and will offer year-round programs and STEM education activities related to nutrition and health.

Designed by Cooper Robertson, the $28 million project builds on national interest in inspiring healthy eating habits for urban youth, but sets itself apart with a dedicated three-acre facility offering hands-on programs for young learners, as well as teachers, families, and adults.

The project is anticipated to double the facility’s capacity, serving up to 100,000 annually.

Cooper Robertson’s design targets LEED Gold certification and includes a 5,300 s/f classroom building with cooking demonstration counter, advanced technology, a teaching greenhouse, and a terraced lawn to accommodate audiences.

Expanded planting areas offer themed gardens focused on different age groups, hosting native edible plants along with vegetables from around the world.

“The buildings themselves also serve as teaching tools for environmental stewardship.” said Cooper Robertson partner Bruce Davis, AIA. “Our green planted roofs feature succulents that retain storm water runoff and serve as added insulation, and the solar panels and geothermal heating systems offer kids a chance to learn about how we harness renewable energy.”

Sited on a wooded slope overlooking the Bronx River, Edible Academy’s other sustainable design elements include the use of porous pavement materials, a stormwater detention tank that traps and channels wastewater, and energy efficient fixtures and mechanical systems.

“With its combination of innovative and flexible spaces for gardening programs, classes, and outdoor events,” continued Davis, “the Edible Academy offers a design framework for addressing the 21st century needs and interests of schools, families, and the public, and provides a national model for institutions looking to create meaningful impacts with garden-based education.”

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