The Alpine Home is a greenhouse for alpine plants that require cooler and drier temperatures than those of southern England.
The new building replaced the outdated greenhouse of the same name, which was technically inadequate (with huge energy-consuming fans and whitewashing on top of glass walls to reduce heat from the sun) and in which it was impossible to grow alpine plants: they were transplanted there from nurseries as adults. … The location of the old greenhouse in the far corner of the park also hindered the influx of visitors.
The new building was erected in the old place, but its unusual design and originality of the technical solution should attract more tourists there.
Wilkinson Air developed a new development and renovation plan for Kew in 2003 to recognize the garden as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In parallel, according to their projects, many park buildings were reconstructed.
The Alpine House is the first of the completed structures. It is a transparent shell, almost invisible from some points of view. Its design is based on two curved arches, reminiscent of the famous Gateshead Bridge, one of the most famous Wilkinson Air projects. The shape of the greenhouse is dictated by the needs of the plants grown inside - saxifrage, peonies, gentian and rosemary, as well as exotic species such as cushion cushions, which can be killed by touching them.
The basis for keeping cool inside the greenhouse is passive ventilation. When the air inside it heats up, it rises up and out through special holes. Cool air enters through the valves at the foundation. To ensure its more active movement inside the greenhouse (without this normal development of plants is impossible), a small fan drives it through a labyrinth of passages under the concrete floor of the structure, which works as a heat-absorbing reservoir.
The "inhabitants" of the "Alpine House" require a lot of light, but it was necessary to prevent excessive heating of the building. Therefore, despite the use of glass with a low iron content - and increased transparency (up to 90%) - the greenhouse is oriented along the north-south axis in order to avoid direct sunlight as much as possible. The glass panels, supported by cables stretched over the arches of the structure, are not convex, but flat, therefore, when the light of the sun is still directed at them, only one of many takes the brunt. In the event of a dangerous rise in temperature, special mechanical "dimmers" open around the greenhouse, like a peacock's tail.
Due to the negligible amount of energy consumed by it, the "Alpine House" can be considered a model for the design of such new generation structures.