A Green Designed Project

From the beginning of the North Carolina History Center project over 10 years ago, Tryon Palace had numerous sustainable goals and complete commitment to fulfill them. Tryon Palace wanted to be a good steward of public funds by reducing operating expenses; to educate visitors about sustainable design practices and the impact of resource preservation on the region and the future; and to be recognized as a leader in the North Carolina museum community with award-winning sustainable design.

In addition, one of Tryon Palace’s ongoing goals was to transform the understanding of its staff, visitors, and sister agencies on 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).

Tryon Palace hired a design consultant 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 the start of 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 a specialized consultant. Stormwater from the surrounding neighborhood (in addition to the History Center site itself) drains into these wetlands through a series of pools. These 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, reducing the severity of flooding. The wetlands area and its plantings also provide habitats for native wildlife, which help mitigate the disturbance of the natural environment by other development.

Building construction

From the building’s structure to its finishes, a significant number of recycled materials-over 30% of total material costs-were utilized in the NCHC:

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

Construction waste currently contributes to approximately 30% of all materials in U.S. landfills. All of the waste generated by the North Carolina History Center construction was managed to ensure that the least possible amount of debris went into landfills. The contractor separated non-hazardous construction waste materials including concrete, cardboard, carpet, metals, drywall, and wood. This effort resulted in the diversion of an estimated 50 to 75% or more of construction waste materials from local landfills!

Indoor environmental quality

High indoor environmental quality contributes to the well-being and productivity of a building’s occupants. The project utilized a number of 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 facility’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 permeable surfacing allowing run-off to be captured and filtered before being released to the river. Landscape plantings include native species and sustainable flora well-suited to natural light, moisture, and soil conditions. These plantings thrive on low levels of labor, fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides, reducing long-term operating costs. The choice of native plants provides an immediate positive impact on the environment and enhances regional cultural identity that can be easily lost in conventional garden design.

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. In addition, the project’s long duration-over ten years since initial planning-with its many distractions and time lapses made keeping the project on track an exceptional challenge.

The North Carolina History Center was successful because Tryon Palace staff started with a clear vision at the project’s inception.

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.

Tryon Palace was one of the lead architect’s (BJAC pa) first clients to ask about sustainable design, before it became a requirement for many institutions.

New Bern’s community and regulatory agencies were engaged very early and made part of the design process.

The design of the building and its exhibits were an integrated effort to create a facility that does more than contain artifacts. The entire design team worked closely with Tryon Palace staff to generate design concepts for the exhibits, and the building was designed to complement the site’s context while facilitating the flow of visitors and opportunities for exhibition.

A creative, understanding and stable design team listened to the needs of Tryon Palace. The design team’s clear channels of communication were key to the project’s overall success.