Exploring North Carolina's Environmentally-Friendly Developments

The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources promotes the arts, culture and history of the state. The department is also making history environmentally, with initiatives ranging from the innovative use of technology to green thinking by staff members that translates to an increase in recycling by visitors to historic sites.  Here are some highlights:
North Carolina Museum of Art
The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) boasts a collection that spans more than 5,000 years of history, a variety of celebrated exhibitions and public programs, an amphitheater for outdoor performances, and the nation’s largest museum park—164 acres of public trails and parkland containing major works of art. The NCMA recently completed a major three-year expansion that places it in the front ranks of museums nationwide. The museum’s new West Building, designed by architects Thomas Phifer and Partners is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council and anticipates a silver LEED certification rating.  Features of the building and grounds include a state of the art, highly efficient climate control system; window shades and curtains that reduce interior heat gain; a ventilation system that uses heat exchangers to recapture heat or cooling from exhaust air to reduce by 75 percent the energy required to produce preconditioned replacement air; and a gallery where 50 percent of daytime lighting is achieved through ceiling vaults and coffers and glass walls, reducing consumption of energy by artificial lighting. Drought-tolerant and native plant species are maintained by a progressive irrigation system.

Over 50 percent of new landscape materials for the museum are either mulched or comprise tall meadow grasses, reducing the need for mowing and irrigation. Lush sculpture gardens strike a balance between landscape design and sustainable environmental standards. Throughout the museum campus, large areas of mowed turf are being replaced with native grasses in order to reduce emissions and improve water quality. Water runoff is captured from the building roof, the museum campus roadway, and air-conditioning condensate, and is stored in a 90,000-gallon cistern. It is used to irrigate four acres of new landscape and replenish three reflecting pools, eliminating the need to use municipal water for the grounds. The North Carolina Museum of Art pond is an award-winning renovation project that artistically sculpted the landscape to meet whole-site storm water management needs.
The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA), an operating entity of the Museum of Art, installed solar lights in its parking lot this year, and is working on a new lighting system to reduce its utility bills by nearly 50 percent by installing LED lighting in the gallery spaces.
Tryon Palace and the North Carolina History Center
The North Carolina History Center is housed in a 60,000-square-foot building on a six-acre site on the Trent River adjacent to Tryon Palace, one of North Carolina’s 27 state historic sites.  The site is a former industrial or Brownfield site.  It was classified as a Superfund property and a major contaminant of the Neuse River basin. This is a green-designed project including the construction of wetlands that will filter storm-water run-off from a 50-acre area of the New Bern Historic District. The run-off is captured in a large underground cistern that recycles the water for irrigation and replenishment of the wetlands. The parking area also has a permeable surface allowing for absorption of run-off, and the building is constructed of recycled materials. A commissioning agent has insured the operational efficiency of all mechanical and electrical equipment onsite, and the North Carolina History Center hopes to achieve LEED certification at the silver level.

The landscape around Tryon Palace features outdoor exhibits to encourage visitors to explore the natural history of the central coast as well as the story of naturalist and explorer John Lawson, who lived in eastern North Carolina in 1710.  Knowledge of the settlers’ 18th-century land use educates visitors about environmental best practices in the 21st century.
North Carolina Historic Sites
Charlotte Hawkins Brown State Historic Site near Greensboro recently completed three major renovation projects, two of which are building restorations and rely on a geo-thermal heating and cooling system. Its buildings also use motion sensor lights and the site’s campus lights use photocells. All of these features help the 40 acre, multi-building campus reduce energy consumption.

Roanoke Island Festival Park in Manteo features an award-winning shoreline restoration project. The 1,500-foot swath of eroding shoreline was turned into a thriving habitat for oysters, maritime forest, and marsh grass ecosystem.