New Ecological Alpine House
Whilst tiny little alpine plants may not be everyone's idea of interesting, this new, ecological, state of the art house for them at Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew is definitely worth a look. Winner of a RIBA Award in 2006, the Davies Alpine House is a sophisticated glass-clad steel structure that replicates the extreme conditions in which alpine plants grow. Through a complex ventilation system, cool air is blown in from below, over the plants. In addition, there is a basement cooling system using a labyrinth as a "heat sink".
During warm summer days, air is drawn into the basement labyrinth where it cools before entering the glasshouse. At night the ambient air is cooler and warm basement air exhausts to the outside. This keeps the labyrinth cool for the next day. The house stays at a temperature range of 0 to 26 degrees C. The glass has a low iron content and an inner plastic layer which allows 90% of the light in. Working with sail-makers, the shading system is drawn by pulleys and winches and follows the lines of the house.