The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh is much more than a tourist hotspot. It is also a vital place for research and protecting endangered plant species. In the greenhouses there are over 3,000 varieties of plants. Some of them are hundreds of years old and extinct elsewhere in the world. With the significance of the collection it was no surprise that people were worried when a broken boiler recently resulted in big issues.
Why is the boiler so important?
The vital thing to remember about plants is that they only prosper at the right temperatures. If the setting is too hot or too cold it can cause big problems, even killing off the plants entirely. Consequently, a complex boiler system is in place to keep the temperature between 22 and 24 degrees Celsius.
The issue with the boiler system is its age. The main feed pipe is 40 years old. The wear and tear over time eventually took its toll, causing the pipe to fail. The failure caused the entire system to go off.
What did they do?
The loss of heat was a huge problem that could have put the entire collection at risk. While the broken boiler was off temporary portable heaters were brought in to maintain the temperatures. Staff worked around the clock to look after the plants. Sadly they were only able to keep the temperature range between 12 and 14 degrees Celsius, far from the optimum.
Boiler engineers were quickly on site to work on the system and try to get it back up and running. The break in the feed pipe was located beneath a wall, making the job a little trickier. Unfortunately it took ten days to repair the system.
It was lucky that the breakdown happened in spring when the weather outside was not too cold. If it had happened in winter the heaters would not have been able to cope.
The best solution would be to upgrade the entire heating system in the greenhouses. Sadly this could cost millions of pounds and would cause a great deal of disruption for the plants. Many buildings also have listed status so any changes to the heating infrastructure may not be possible.