By admin


Our award winning Nevin Welcome Center is where you will find interpretive exhibits about Cornell Botanic Gardens, art exhibits, a visitor services desk, fully accessible restrooms, and an elevator.  The elevator provides access to an outdoor connecting path to Comstock Knoll and our Bowers Rhododendron Collection.

Green Building

With thoughtful planning, design and construction, Cornell Botanic Gardens’ Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center was built to minimize its environmental impact. This project was designed using the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system designed by the U.S. Green Building Council and was awarded the GOLD level of certification.

In concert with the construction of the Nevin Welcome Center, we also made significant improvements to the surrounding gardens.  These improvements started with a new parking area and tour- bus drop off zone. The parking area and arrival plaza were partially constructed of Cornell Structural Soil™, a special substrate design that allows better root penetration to encourage vigorous tree growth.  The arrival plaza at the parking area is shaded by trees that will become part of our Urban Tree Collection.  

Adjacent to the parking area, our bioswale garden provides an innovative landscaping approach that precludes the need for conventional underground drainage systems. The bioswale garden includes plants that can withstand dry and wet conditions, all of which filter surface water runoff from the parking lot and surrounding areas.

LEED-ing in Green Design

The LEED system evaluates projects on how they:

  • save energy
  • use water efficiently
  • use natural materials sustainably
  • create healthy indoor environments

Saving Energy

SOLAR ENERGY: Evacuated tube solar collectors help heat the building.

MAXIMIZING SUNLIGHT: The building’s orientation takes advantage of sunlight for lighting and solar heating.

TEMPERATURE CONTROL: Wood louvers provide external solar control in winter when light passes through to provide warmth; in summer, they shade the interior.

NATURAL INSULATION: Building the Welcome Center into the natural slope of Comstock Knoll helps to insulate and moderate the building’s temperatures.

NATURAL VENTILATION: Ceiling vents and low open windows assist cooling and reduce energy costs.

GREEN ROOF: Sedum plants help lower the building’s temperature in summer and insulate the building from the cold in winter.

Conserving Water

BIOSWALE GARDEN: The bioswale garden and filter strip, planted with perennials, grasses and trees, are designed to capture and filter stormwater runoff from the parking lot. The plants in these areas detain the water, where it will slowly percolate into the ground.

GREEN ROOF: Sedum plants and special soil on the roof capture rainwater and slow runoff.

IMPROVED DRAINAGE: Roof drains channel rainwater down to the soil level to water plants around the building.

Using Natural Materials Sustainably

REGIONAL PRODUCTS: Products like New York State bluestone and others from within a 500-mile radius were used.

DURABLE WOOD: The hardwood façade and louvers, made of Ipe wood, are durable and long-lasting.

DOUBLE GLASS: The windows used throughout the building are made of double glass panes that reduce heat loss.

RECYCLED MATERIALS: Thirty percent of the building’s materials are made from recycled content.

Creating a Healthy Environment

OPTIMIZE NATURAL LIGHT: Large windows and skylights optimize daylight.

AIR QUALITY: Interior finishes and sealants use low- to no-volatile organic compounds. Natural ventilation helps keep indoor air cleaner.

SHADE: Trees are planted along the parking lot and entrance path to provide shade for visitors.


The building has received several awards of excellence including:

  • Award of Excellence, American Institute of Architects, New York Chapter
  • Best of Show, Ontario Association of Architects
  • Design Excellence Award, Ontario Association of Architects
  • Award of Excellence, Canadian Architect
  • Honor Award, Tri-state AIA Annual Conference
  • Honor Award for Excellence in Landscape Architecture, The Society for College and University Planning

Design and Construction

DESIGN: Baird, Sampson and Neuert Architects of Toronto, Canada.

LANDSCAPE DESIGN: Baird Sampson Neuert; Wolf Lighthall Landscape Architecture + Planning; Cornell Plantations Director of Horticulture, Mary Hirshfeld & Landscape Designer, Irene Lekstutis;
civil engineers T. G. Miller

CONSTRUCTION: Welliver, General Contractor; Cayuga Landscape; Cornell Facilities Services