RBGE Research Glasshouses

As we all try to manage as best we can through these challenging times both personally and professionally, it’s worth reflecting on the criticality of team work within an organisation such as RBGE. In the front line of plant care our Horticulture staff are working hard to ensure the National Living Collection remains just that, and in order to undertake that important role they need supporting facilities; water, heat and light to mention just the basics. The provision of these services becomes more challenging as travel restrictions bite and more of our suppliers are no longer able to provide services or have insufficient resource. Routine non critical maintenance is one of the first casualties and this has already declined significantly or ceased altogether, on an already ageing infrastructure.

Vent maintenance

We therefore rely heavily on our inhouse and seconded maintenance operatives who are still able to attend site and are working a new shift pattern, which allows them to adhere to social distancing directives whilst dealing with critical works. They are undertaking building checks, inspections and repairs as necessary on daily, short term visits and are maintaining an ‘on call’ system to enable an effective response to failures or emergencies. A major challenge is the continued operation of the boilers providing heat to support our temperate and tropical glasshouse collections. Recent equipment failures required the team to utilise spare parts available on site to repair a critical boiler and undertake an emergency response to fix a burst heating pipe within the Temperate Palmhouse. They were supported by of one of our remaining contractors. It is only through these efforts that we are able to help the collections to survive.

One of the main heating boilers under repair

Similarly the National Preserved Collection, Micropropagation Unit and Archives need protecting. Although in a more stable environment within the Herbarium, Library and Balfour building, the environmental systems that support these, need constant supervision and attention. The Estates Support team are facilitating access and undertaking routine fire checks and ensuring security for the buildings is not compromised, enabling others to undertake their critical duties of care.

Daily fire safety checks

We are all learning new skills in the area of communication, with virtual meetings and teleconferences quickly becoming the new norm. These teams also use computerised systems to monitor the facilities, which enable remote investigations into faults and even adjustments and fixes where possible. As the lockdown continues our thoughts are with family, friends and colleagues but wherever possible, our work continues at RBGE as one team, working together to maintain Scotland’s National Collections through this crisis.