A Green Designed Project

The North Carolina History Center project began with a commitment to numerous sustainable goals. Tryon Palace wanted to be a good steward of public funds by reducing operating expenses and educating visitors about sustainable design practices and the impact of resource preservation on the region and into the future. The building was recognized as a leader in the North Carolina museum community for its award-winning sustainable design.

Tryon Palace continues to recognize the importance of sustainable development and implementing everyday green practices to help improve our environment and create a better place to live.

From an industrial site back to a public space

The North Carolina History Center site is a former industrial or Brownfield site classified as a Superfund property, and was a major contaminant of the Neuse River basin. Administration of remediation was handled under the North Carolina Superfund, part of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

A design consultant was hired to plan for the isolation and monitoring of hazardous materials (CDENR). This process required the creation of a Remedial Action Plan, as well as the remediation of several ‘hot spots’ prior to construction.

The combination of a need for site reclamation and Tryon Palace’s goal of good stewardship resulted in the design and reconstruction of wetlands with the help of another specialized consultant. Stormwater from the History Center site and the surrounding neighborhood drains into these wetlands through a series of pools. The pools filter out sediment and other pollutants as the water flows from one chamber to the next and eventually into the river. The system slows the water’s flow, allowing sunlight and time to aid in the water cleaning process. Plantings absorb excess water, helping to reduce flooding. The wetlands area and its plantings also provide habitats for native wildlife and helps mitigate the disturbance of the natural environment by other development.

Building construction

A significant number of recycled materials, more than 30% of total material costs was utilized in the construction:

Using regional materials (within 500 miles) reduced the impact of freight for brick, concrete masonry units, steel beams, glass, metal studs, and sheetrock.

To reduce construction waste which contributes heavily to U.S. landfills, waste generated by the North Carolina History Center construction was managed to ensure that the least possible amount went into landfills. The contractor separated non-hazardous construction waste materials including concrete, cardboard, carpet, metals, drywall, and wood. These efforts resulted in the diversion of an estimated 50 to 75% or more of construction waste materials to local landfills!

Indoor environmental quality

High indoor environmental quality contributes to the well-being and productivity of occupants. The project utilized strategies to improve the building’s indoor environmental quality:

Healthier interior spaces:

Energy efficiency:

Water efficiency:

Built-in recycling collection bins located in several areas promote recycling by North Carolina History Center occupants and its visitors.

Water-efficient landscaping

The North Carolina History Center project included the construction of wetlands that filter storm-water run-off from a 50-acre residential area of the New Bern Historic District. Run-off from the NCHC’s roofs is captured in a 35,000-gallon underground cistern that recycles water for site landscape irrigation and directs overflow into the wetlands. The parking area contains several swales/rain gardens and has permeable surfacing, allowing run-off to be captured and filtered before being released to the river. The original landscape plantings included native species and sustainable flora well-suited to natural light, moisture, and soil conditions and were chosen for their ability to thrive on low levels of labor, fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides.

How and why the NC History Center is a successful story

This was a complex project with a wide group of consultants and unique design challenges that continued for a durations of more than ten years caused by distractions and time lapses; made keeping the project on track an exceptional challenge.

The Tryon Palace team generated enormous support for the project, which raised funds and maintained enthusiasm. As a result, the design team was guided by a strong vision from the beginning. New Bern’s community and regulatory agencies were engaged very early and made part of the design process.

Tryon Palace was one of the lead architect’s (BJAC pa) first clients to pursue a sustainable design; now a requirement for many institutions.

Clear channels of communication were key to the project’s success. A creative, understanding and stable design team listened to the needs of Tryon Palace and the design of the building and its exhibits was an integrated effort to create a facility that does more than house artifacts. The design team worked closely with Tryon Palace to generate concepts for the exhibits, and a building design that complemented the site’s context while facilitating the flow of visitors and opportunities for exhibition.