The North Carolina Botanical Garden’s Education Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has earned the highest level awarded for green buildings. The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program recently awarded the building platinum certification. LEED is the nationally accepted certification program for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. The Education Center, dedicated in 2009, 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.
“The platinum certification is the culmination of the dreams and years of hard work of many individuals,” said Peter White, director of the garden. “Furthermore, the $12 million in funding that made this possible came from our donors and supporters. No public money was used for construction. It is our gift to the state and people of North Carolina. Both the Education Center and the surrounding gardens demonstrate our unique mission in environmental sustainability.”
The Education Center, designed by Frank Harmon Architects of Raleigh, consists of three major sections connected by covered breezeways. Inside are an exhibit hall, a botanical art and illustration gallery, four classrooms, a “Green Gardener” reference library and information desk, conference and seminar rooms, and an auditorium/banquet hall. Daylighting and the use of materials with little or no indoor air pollutants contribute to a healthy, comfortable atmosphere for workers and participants in the many public programs offered in the center.
The vision of a state-of-the-art green facility to house the educational and public service activities of the garden was launched in 2000 with a generous bequest from longtime garden volunteer Katherine “Kay” Bradley Mouzon. More than 500 other donors have contributed to the project. Carolina students supported the construction of the geothermal heat-exchange system through a grant from the students' own Renewable Energy Special Projects Fund.
The LEED rating system promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in key areas: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality and innovation in design. Points for achievement in these areas were awarded to the Education Center after the USGBC’s review of records kept during design, construction and inaugural operation of the center last winter.
An integrated collection of green features resulted in the Education Center receiving platinum certification:
- Most materials used to build the 31,000-square-foot structure came from within a 500-mile radius.
- Wood for the window trim and baseboards came from trees that were cut down from the original building site.
- Portions of the wooden flooring came from a house in Hillsborough that was being torn down.
- 96 percent of construction waste was recycled, leaving only 4 percent by weight for the landfill.
- Eight cisterns (seven above ground and one below) collect rainwater to be reused for irrigation.
- The elevators use no hydraulic fluid and have only energy-efficient traction motors.
- The parking lot’s porous paving cleans stormwater before it enters neighboring streams.
- Photovoltaic panels collect and store sunlight that is used to generate 7.5 percent of annual electricity needs.
N.C. Botanical Garden website: http://ncbg.unc.edu/
N.C. Botanical Garden contact: Laura M Cotterman