The Monsanto Center houses a world-class herbarium collection (containing 5 million plant specimens), library, offices, and laboratories. Christner took the lead on the multi-disciplinary design team in developing sustainable design criteria for the site development and landscaping, building envelope, operational systems, building materials, and interior finishes. Completed in 1998, the Monsanto Center predates the sustainable criteria established by the U.S. Green Building Council and serves as a seminal example of environmentally responsive design.
Given the dual needs for research and preservation of the collections, Christner designed the building in two distinct vertical zones, with separate thermal and environmental controls. Research and office areas are on the south. Large windows admit light that is then reflected off the angled ceiling to reduce electric light use. The collections area (heavily insulated and without windows) is on the north. Rigorous environmental demands require storage at 62 to 65 degrees and relative humidity at 45 percent. Vestibules buffer heat and moisture migration from adjoining office space.
Size: 78,000 sf
Status: Completed 1998
Associate Architect: Louis R. Saur & Associates
Sustainability Consultant: The Croxton Collaborative
LEED Silver Certified, Existing Buildings
Construction products for the Monsanto Center were all screened for recycled content, off-gassing risk, and potential use after the product resided at the building. Exterior aluminum wall panels were 100% recycled aluminum.
Furnishings were carefully selected for their longevity, flexibility, and maintenance techniques. Products were rejected that did not have concrete data from manufacturers to support environmental objectives.
The rare book reading room requires a cool temperature-controlled environment. Bright colors were used in this space to give the impression of increased temperature.
Christner's site design incorporated sustainable criteria of water retention and use of native plantings. Planners also optimized the site's capability for future growth.
Optimizing natural daylighting to promote the sustainable aspects of the building and enhance the feeling of wellbeing in the occupants was a major concern for designers.
This research lab illustrates an important lesson learned by lighting designers: uniform indirect lighting reduces the light level required to perform a given task.
Use of mechanically assisted manual cranked library storage units saved energy and cost ten to twenty percent less than electrical units.