Eco-Friendly Practices

In 2008 Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center was the first project in Texas and the 50th project in the world to earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s Platinum certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for New Construction (LEED-NC).

This designation verifies that the design and construction of Shangri La reached the highest green building and performance measures. As one of the most earth-friendly projects in the world, Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center offers a glimpse of how people can live in harmony with nature. The combination of gardens and nature at Shangri La presents a serene oasis for retreat, relaxation, and renewal, as well as the opportunity to explore, discover and learn.


The project team worked diligently to implement sustainability practices into the design, planning, construction and operations of Shangri La in order to qualify for this prestigious green building rating. Following submission of a comprehensive application and an in-depth review process by the U.S. Green Building Council, Shangri La received its certification on February 8, 2008. Below are details of Shangri La’s “green” features:

Shangri La’s grounds and structures utilize many green design strategies. The overall buildings’ architecture and the efficiency of its equipment and lighting reduce energy cost by 70%. The proper orientation of the buildings for passive solar heating and cooling, optimized overhangs, soybean-based spray foam insulation in the walls and ceilings, and window placement all contribute to the energy savings. In addition, the facilities have a closed-loop, geothermal heating and cooling system which pumps water from an 800-foot-deep well, allowing Shangri La to take advantage of the consistent temperatures deep within the earth.

There are also 36 solar photovoltaic panels installed on a portion of the south-facing roofs and in two fields by the outdoor classrooms that generate renewable energy. When the sun is out, Shangri La produces 21% of its energy from these panels. Waterless urinals, ultra low flow toilets, and low flow sinks will allow the facility to save approximately 58,700 gallons of water throughout the year a reduction of more than 75% over standard fixtures.

The majority of the structures in the Orientation Center were faced with reclaimed brick material salvaged from an Arkansas warehouse built circa 1910. Sinker cypress salvaged from rivers in Louisiana was used for siding, slat walls, fencing doors, and gates. Shangri La’s parking lot was made from reclaimed asphalt salvaged using the repaving of Green Avenue in Orange, Texas.

In order to reduce transportation impacts and support the regional economy, the team selected 49% of the total building materials by values that were manufactured within 500 miles of the project site. The roofing is designed to reflect heat and collect rainwater in large cisterns; this collected water is then used in toilets and the landscape irrigation system of the Orientation Center. During construction, the contractors diverted over 79% of the construction waste from the landfill.

Almost 13% of the total building materials content by value has been manufactured using recycled materials including the concrete, which contains 41% fly ash as a substitute for Portland cement. The boardwalks that traverse the cypress/tupelo swamp are created from ChoiceDek®, an environmentally-sound decking product comprised of recycled plastic and wood. The total amount of recycled plastic used in the ChoiceDek® boardwalks throughout Shangri La would equal 1.1 million milk jugs or 3.6 million plastic bags.

Another significant environmental solution was to use the building and the new landscaping to filter and restore the water quality of the formerly “oxygen starved” pond and wetlands that is the nesting grounds for numerous species of water fowl.

Hurricane Rita devastated Shangri La in 2005 at the beginning of its construction phase. Rather than conceding a setback, team leaders viewed the situation as an opportunity for salvaging natural materials, as many fallen trees were incorporated into the construction of facilities as well as being harvested for lumber on other projects. Mobile milling equipment was used to salvage the lumber, which is used throughout Shangri La for benches, Orientation Center furniture, and the Nature Discovery Center.

It is a distinct honor for Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center to earn the LEED-NC Platinum certification and be included in the select group of sustainable and innovative buildings that are LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. This significant accomplishment extends beyond the buildings, however, and exemplifies Shangri La’s goal to Mentor Children of All Ages to Be Kind to Their World.