Growing Green, Building Green

An Environmentally Sustainable Education Center for the North Carolina Botanical Garden

Our new Education Center is the first building on a UNC campus, the first state-owned building in North Carolina, and the state's first public museum and outreach center to earn LEED platinum status! UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp, Governor Beverly Perdue, UNC Board of Trustees Chair Bob Winston, and others dedicated the facility on October 12, 2009. Governor Perdue hailed the new center as a model for green building.

This wonderful facility is where the people of North Carolina and visitors from farther afield can listen to lectures, take workshops and classes, obtain information on sustainable gardening practices, and be introduced to the gardens and natural areas that make up the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

With the help of nearly 600 individual donors, we have raised 85% of the funds for this project. These are all privately donated funds: no public money has been applied to this project! There remain several important parts of the plan, however, that require funding, including irrigation systems and new landscaping and gardens.

Please consider making a gift today for this pioneering project!

Visit our photo gallery, and continue reading below to learn more.

A Building for North Carolina

In 2000, with support from a generous bequest, the staff launched the design of the Master Plan's Visitor Education Center by Frank Harmon, Architect, of Raleigh. The plan was approved by the State of North Carolina in 2003.

Our new Education Center expresses a sense of place and celebrates relationships between humans and nature through the integration of indoor and outdoor spaces. Open breezeways, comfortable porches, natural light in every room, beautiful native plant landscaping (to come), and educational exhibits inform, delight, and invite visitors to our Conservation Garden. The Reeves Multipurpose Auditorium and seminar rooms support the environmental, conservation, and horticultural community of our state and region. Most of all, our building is a center for learning about science and the enjoyment of plants and nature.

architectural rendering of the Visitor Education Center

"North Carolina needs this building. The Visitor Education Center at the North Carolina Botanical Garden will demonstrate to the world that a green building can be warm, welcoming, and beautiful, as well as environmentally responsible and supportive of the physical and spiritual needs of all who work, volunteer, or learn here. Set in a world-class conservation garden, the building will be a gateway to the wonder of the natural world and to a future in which human health and environmental health are one." — Frank Harmon, Architect (FrankHarmon.com)

Watch a video that explains some of the history and motivation behind the project to build the North Carolina Botanical Garden's Education Center.

Three Sections Connected by Breezeways

The 29,656-square-foot Education Center consists of three major sections connected by covered breezeways. All systems and materials have been designed to minimize environmental impact and support human health. This project sets a new standard for environmentally friendly public buildings in our state and region. We are submitting our project for certification under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating—a voluntary Green Building Council Rating System—and should hear back some time in 2010. We expect to be the first LEED Platinum public building in North Carolina.

The Eleanor Smith Pegg Exhibit and Information Hall, located in the central area of the building, welcomes visitors as they enter the Garden through the large breezeway. The main floor of this wing accommodates a gift shop and plant sales area as well as the Green Gardener Reference Room, where visitors can ask about Earth-friendly gardening and consult our reference book collection, a gallery for art exhibits, and a special room for Garden volunteers. The upper floor provides space for administrative offices and production of Garden literature.

The West Wing of the Center features the Reeves Auditorium, a large multipurpose space for workshops, conferences, special events and dinners, flower shows, and meetings of garden clubs and other groups interested in conservation, outdoor education, and horticulture. This wing also includes a seminar room, special library collections room, and a catering kitchen.

The East Wing houses staff offices and classrooms for schoolchildren, horticultural therapy clients, and others enrolled in the Garden's programs. Here, indoor growing spaces and outdoor learning gardens for children and adults will allow the Garden to expand services and programs for a diverse audience. A planned nearby outdoor classroom will encourage learning in a woodland setting near Meeting-of-the-Waters Creek.

Green Features

photovoltaic panels

Photovoltaic Panels

These panels capture solar energy and generate 20% or more of the power used in the building.

geothermal heating and cooling system

Geothermal Wells

Circulating water through underground pipes takes advantage of consistent temperatures that are "cool" in the summer and "warm" in the winter.

rainwater cisterns

Rainwater Cisterns

Stone cisterns located near the corners of the building collect rainwater from the roof. The water is stored for irrigation purposes — all gardening activities will be based on rainwater instead of regional drinking water supplies.

stormwater retention ponds

Stormwater Retention Ponds

Rainwater is retained in ponds and swales. By slowing the water down and letting it filter through vegetation, pollutants are removed and most of the water is retained on the site.

architectural site plan

Site Selection

The building site was chosen to protect existing vegetation, minimize earth moving, and make the most of solar heating and cooling design.

clerestory windows

Clerestory Windows

These windows provide natural light throughout the building. The orientation and overhang allows direct light to enter in the winter and shades the building in the summer.

Site Selection and Design

  • Efficient solar orientation
  • Minimal disturbance to grade
  • Protection of existing vegetation

Water Conservation

  • Water-efficient native landscaping
  • Low-flow plumbing
  • Stormwater conservation and re-use
  • Rainwater cisterns
  • Rainwater gardens and retention swales

Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation

  • Geothermal wells for efficient heating and air-conditioning
  • Photovoltaic panels
  • Solar water-heating panels
  • Natural lighting
  • Sensors will automatically dim lights when daylight is strong

Building Materials

  • To minimize transportation costs and carbon dioxide emissions, and to stimulate local economies, all materials will be locally and sustainably produced
  • No wood will come from old growth forest; all will be from certified sustainable forests
  • Natural field stone from local sources
  • Recycled/recyclable: at least 75% of construction waste will be recycled
  • Non-toxic and no off-gassing

Healthy Building Climate

  • Furnishings and finishes that will not release toxic gases
  • Daylight and views from 90% of all spaces
  • Operable windows
  • Clean air systems
  • Air quality monitoring
  • Universal access design

Make A Contribution

If you'd like to help us realize our goals for the Education Center, you may make a general contribution or sponsor and name a space. You can visit our Support the Garden page to learn how to make a donation, and to view our "Wish List." OR call to arrange a tour of this innovative facility and learn how you can be part of the project: please contact Charlotte Jones-Roe (via email or phone, 919-962-9458) or Peter S. White (via email or phone, 919-962-6939).

Published on March 15, 2012 at 11:40:23 am.


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