Green-roof prairie and fantasy gardens at Epic Systems, Part 2

July 30, 2022

The imaginative, theme-park landscaping and architectural design of Epic Systems’ corporate campus made for a one-of-a-kind tour during the Madison Fling in June. While I’d read about Epic’s imaginative design, I hadn’t heard of its ambitious sustainability efforts. According to the company’s website:

“Epic’s buildings are sustainably built and in part powered by alternative energy. Farmers harvest about 350 acres of our land, and we try to use minimal impervious concrete for our parking structures and roads to prevent runoff. Most of our parking spaces are underground, reducing our footprint and preserving the beautiful countryside. Our buildings are heated and cooled by 1000 miles of geothermal pipes that reach 500 feet underground. As a software company, we recognize that we use a lot of energy – we’ve installed six wind turbines and 18 acres of solar panels to help meet our energy needs. On a bright windy day we’re practically off the grid.”

Hiking across Epic’s sprawling campus, we came upon a sunny field filled with coneflowers. Beautiful and pollinator friendly? Yes and yes. But also, our guide told us, it’s part of an elaborate green-roof system over an underground parking garage.


In fact, almost all of Epic’s 9,000 parking spaces (as of 2018) are underground, with planted gardens above. “If all of this was surface parking, we’d have 120 to 150 acres of asphalt,” according to Steve Diekman, Epic’s chief administrative officer. country today. Instead of asphalt and cars burning in the sun, Epic chose places like conifers and other plants, wildlife habitat, rainwater infiltration, heat reduction and beautiful parks for their employees to enjoy.

I call it a win-win for employees, plants and wildlife, and Planet Earth.

Can you imagine walking outside your office to a view like this instead of the parking lot?

I can, and that would be a huge selling point.

Of course, underground parking garages can be very expensive. But what we can do to make our landscapes and cities more “green” and resilient in the face of climate change is perhaps our most important effort now.

I love this apricot and burgundy color combo.

Meadow grasses are somewhat prettier than mere lawns, provide habitat and movement, and require much less weekly maintenance and watering than lawns.

And in Apk you never know what awesome beast will walk through the vegetation.

Wild West Gardens

This part of the campus is older than the storybook campus I showed in Part 1, but it’s also themed. The most amazing area to my eyes was an Arizona, red-rock desert garden known as the Wild West. What is this green doing in Wisconsin?

Why not?“Epic will answer. Surprisingly, there were no octillos or saguaros. Instead, smoke trees, conifers, coneflowers, grasses, and sedums yielded to desert species. An expanse of red gravel mulch picked up the desert theme, as did rusted horseshoes. Expressive mastangas.

A horse has a metal dragonfly attached to its nose. Curious as to what the seedlings growing up in the gravel might be. Any guesses?

In a more densely planted area, a giant snake slithers along the ground, its forked tongue tasting the air. Its head doubles as a garden bench.

Its patterned body “disappears” under some rocks and a flowering yucca and pops up again to run nearly the length of a building.

Tropical style garden

Just outside the desert garden, a tropical-esque garden of big leaves, bananas and jungle grass creates a completely different feel. A few flingers hop on the free Epic bicycles parked around campus and enjoy a quick ride with the wind in their hair.

Asian style garden

Come into an Asian-inspired office building that surrounds you.

A contemplative Japanese-style garden tucked between two buildings would be a lovely spot for a quiet outdoor lunch.

Be the dragon here

Dragon art can be seen throughout this part of the campus, including a sentient dragon holding a songbird…

…and a ferocious, three-headed dragon leaps and tumbles from a moat.


and more

A few more views as we pass through the campus, like the entrance to this astronomy-themed building.

A silver chameleon licks its tongue at something on a metal tree

Shaped pottery totems in a meadow garden

Prairie milkweed provides larval habitat for monarch butterflies

Clockwork flowers “blossom” in the birch grove.

An epic-sized flower vase outside the main entrance

The Tin Man from Oz directs traffic in the visitor and customer parking lot (one of the few surface lots).

And a non-epic – rather modest, indeed – epic mark.

What a place to work – and visit! Epic Systems invites the public to take a self-guided tour Monday through Friday from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The gardens alone are fascinating, and you could easily spend hours exploring them. Believe it or not, Epic lets Covid-vaxed visitors roam indoors. I want to come back and see the stairs to heaven and the elevator to hell; Harry Potter Library, Staircase, and Astronomy Tower; conference-room treehouse; Slide the rabbit-hole into the floor; new castaway-island buildings; and Dungeons & Dragons-themed buildings. My fellow geeks, this place was made for you. Check Epic’s website for updates on visitation times or rules.

Or take a 17-minute video tour of the Epic campus with interior spaces on YouTube.

Next: Jane and Duane Miller’s creatively mobile driveway garden. To revisit Part 1 of my visit to Epic Systems’ Fantasy Landscaping and Interiors, click here.

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All material © 2022 by Pam Penick for Excavation. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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