Edinburgh Biomes for the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Smith Scott Mullan Associates has been working with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh since 2008 to help it develop its vision for Edinburgh Biomes, an ambitious project to protect its unique and globally important plant collection. We have already completed a new research glasshouse and other enabling works, and we are excited as the project enters the next phase.

Once completed, Edinburgh Biomes will secure the RBGE’s work for future generations and provide a spectacular new visitor experience for the public. RBGE has taken this unique opportunity to explore visionary proposals that will not only cover conservation and repairs but deliver world-leading facilities that will protect the work of this national institution for the future.

The Victorian Palm Houses and the unique 1960s glasshouses with their external structural frame are all Category A Listed and will be fully refurbished, not only securing the future of the buildings but also ensuring that they continue to provide a safe environment for the RBGE’s plant collection. Comprising over 13,500 plant species, the collection includes many plants that are endangered or extinct in their native habitats.

The project includes a new state-of-the-art plant health suite and a new, efficient, eco-friendly sustainable energy centre in the Nursery to the north of the main Garden. The new plant health suite will provide a safe propagation environment. The new energy centre will introduce ground source heat pumps which, coupled with new low heat loss pipework, will reduce the carbon footprint of the glasshouses by 12 per cent.

Simon Milne MBE, Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, said: “Edinburgh Biomes is potentially the most significant project in the Garden’s history. We are one of the top four botanic gardens in the world and these proposals will enable us to continue our pioneering work for Scotland and the world. At a time when 20% of the world’s plant species are at risk from extinction our work is more important than ever.

“Our heritage glasshouses need extensive restoration to save them for the nation. Our research glasshouses, critical to the work we do in Scotland and around the world, are well beyond their lifespan and are already suffering during extreme weather. They will only survive a few more years without essential upgrades. As the seasons pass, the risks are increasing, so prompt action is necessary.

“As part of this project and as guardians of one of the world’s most significant scientific and horticultural resources, we will redevelop our facilities to sustain RBGE as a leader in plant science, horticulture, biodiversity, education and conservation and ensure our collection thrives for generations to come.

“Edinburgh Biomes has the vision and potential to attract, excite and engage people of all nationalities and walks of life. We appreciate its ambition and sincerely hope that the people of Edinburgh and Scotland will support and share our proposals to maintain our vital work.”

RBGE received initial funding from the Scottish Government to take the project to Planning Permission stage and continues to work with Ministers on the next stage which will also include a major fund-raising appeal. If approved, Edinburgh Biomes would be delivered across a staged build to allow for the decanting and relocation of seasonally sensitive plants over several years.