History of the Greenhouse

Hall Building Greenhouse

There were plans for a Biology Greenhouse in the earliest proposals and plans (1962) for the Sir George Williams University (SGWU) Burnside Building (later named the Henry F. Hall Building.)

The Henry F. Hall Building officially opened in October 1966, and it included a greenhouse on the 13th floor. The greenhouse was part of the Biology department, and it’s first technician was Herve de la Fouchardiere, a graduate horticulturalist. The greenhouse was built as a series of separate west-facing glass compartments along a corridor. The compartments included specialized equipment for heat control, automatic watering and latticed blinds for sunlight control.

In 1974 Loyola College and SGWU merged to create Concordia University and the two biology departments combined to form a single unit. Biology/Botany faculty and students continued to use the greenhouse for research and teaching in areas such as cell physiology, tissue colour and flower pigmentation. The technician grew tropical plants in one room (now the atrium lounge) and ferns in the room adjacent. These plants were sold on a word-of-mouth basis to help finance the operations of the greenhouse. Another room at the far end was used for studying parasites in water fowl, and included an indoor pond, and outdoor fenced in area. The Greenhouse worked on several commercial contracts, including growing the plants for the Concordia campus landscaping and vineyard twig propagation.

Long-time technician Herve de la Foucharderies retired in 1995; Sue Parisella replaced him in 2000.

In 2002 Concordia announced that the Hall building greenhouse would soon be dismantled. The building of the Richard J. Renaud Science Complex on the Loyola Campus was well underway; this state-of-the-art teaching and research facility would house the physical sciences under one roof, and it would include a new greenhouse for the Biology department. The Renaud Complex opened in September 2003 and over the following months the Biology Department greenhouse operations moved from the Hall building to the new facilities on Loyola Campus.

By 2003 the greenhouse was vacant, except from clandestine sprouting of vegetables by the People`s Potato.

In September 2004 the Sustainability Coordinator and a Sustainable Concordia student coordinator opened dialogue with Concordia administration about the greenhouse. They proposed that Concordia halt plans for demolition and suggested instead rejuvenating and repurposing the greenhouse. The Concordia Greenhouse Project was formed under the umbrella of Sustainable Concordia. After considerable follow-up and lengthy discussions Concordia paid for pesticide decontamination, asbestos removal and an architectural assessment of the facilities.

Through 2004-2005 the greenhouse working group, composed of many dedicated students and the Sustainability coordinator, created an interdisciplinary and environmentally responsible vision and mandate for the space, explored funding opportunities and sought groups interested in collaboration. They worked with many individuals in Facilities Management to coordinate asbestos removal, decontamination of the space and the architectural assessment of the greenhouse.

In 2005 the environmental architectural firm l’OEUF presented its final report evaluating the greenhouse systems, structure and envelope.

In January 2006 the Concordia Greenhouse Committee entered into partnership with the department of Geography, Planning and Environment, under whose stewardship the physical aspects of the greenhouse were for a number of years following.

The preliminary opening of the greenhouse occurred in April 2006 and in November 2006 there was a formal launch of the revitalized greenhouse, an organic space for education and research, sustainable horticulture and community building. At the same time, the indoor Greenhouse composting operation was launched, part of a campus-wide composting project. In the Greenhouse alone, about five million worms composted up to 24 metric tons per year of organic waste generated by food facilities in the Hall Building.

Two years later, during the 2007-2008 school year under the hard work of Arlene Throness, the re-vitalized Greenhouse atrium was opened to the public, and compartments began to be rented to groups interested in working on independent projects.

In 2013 the Greenhouse collective applied for a Student Fee Levy of $0.12 per credit per undergraduate student, which is now the main source of the projects funding.

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Our mission is to provide a welcoming, organic green space that fosters community by providing experiential learning opportunities within a year-round growing environment.