Dow Gardens Butterfly Conservatory

About this Project

The Dow Gardens Butterfly Conservatory in Midland, Michigan is a testament to the possibilities of glass manufacturing and construction. This magnificent structure, which opened in 2004, is a showcase of the art and science of creating a space that is both functional and visually stunning.  Crystal Structures was engaged to update the massive skylight and inverted windows of the structure in 2021.

Whether you’re a glazier, a general contractor, or an architect, the Dow Gardens Butterfly Conservatory is a prime example of what can be achieved when imagination, expertise, and technology combine to create a truly unique building. Here’s a closer look at how this amazing structure was manufactured and constructed.

Designing a Butterfly Haven

The architects worked closely with the Dow Gardens staff to create a structure that would provide an ideal habitat for a variety of butterfly species. The building needed to provide a controlled environment that would allow the butterflies to thrive, while also providing an attractive and inviting space for visitors.

The conservatory measures 6,200 square feet and features a 74-foot square pyramid skylight soaring an impressive 26 feet. The building is surrounded by a lush, tropical garden that is home to hundreds of butterflies, as well as a variety of plants and flowers.

Manufacturing the skylight

One of the key features of the Dow Gardens Butterfly Conservatory is the extensive use of glass in its design. The manufacture of the skylight was updated and reglazed by Crystal Structures using our SkyQuest, a nonstructural system on top of the existing steel structure.  There is also a smaller ridgelight at the entrance.

In addition to the skylights, the structure features inverted glass walls, also reglazed by Crystal Structures.

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Skylight over pool Cavalier

The glass used in the conservatory allows visitors to experience the beauty of the surrounding garden and the colorful butterflies without any distortion or coloration. The glass is also coated with a special anti-reflective coating that minimizes glare and enhances the clarity of the view. 

Needless to say, the manufacturing process required precise attention to detail, as even the slightest imperfection could compromise the structure’s integrity.

Constructing the Conservatory

The original construction of the Dow Gardens Butterfly Conservatory was a complex and challenging process that required the expertise of skilled general contractors and architects. The building’s framework consists of a series of steel arches that support the glass panels.

The arches were carefully fabricated to exact specifications and assembled on-site. Once the arches were in place, the glass panels were carefully installed one by one, with each panel secured in place by a series of specially designed clips and fasteners.  The reglazing by Crystal Structures required the same attention to detail.

The building’s heating and cooling system is also a critical component of the design, including a series of sensors and controls that monitor the environment and adjust the heating and cooling as needed.  Crystal Structures supplied new greenhouse equipment to provide the temperature controls needed to keep the environment suitable for butterflies and plants.

The Dow Gardens Butterfly Conservatory is a stunning example of the art and science of glass manufacturing and construction. It is a source of inspiration and innovation. The success of this project is a testament to the power of collaboration between architects, contractors, and glaziers, pushing the boundaries of what is possible.