Cutting Edge Green Technologies

November 1, 2014

New Buildings Lay Foundation for Nicholas School’s Future Cutting-Edge Technologies 

the dust is settling

After years of planning and construction, the Nicholas School of the Environment opened two new buildings this year and is nearing completion of major renovations on another.

The 70,000-square-foot Duke Environment Hall, located on Duke’s main campus in Durham, opened April 10.

The 12,000-square-foot Orrin H. Pilkey Research Laboratory, located at the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, N.C., opened May 4.

Renovations to more than 13,000 square feet of laboratory and office space in the Levine Science Research Building should be finished this academic year.

The new buildings and the renovations incorporate cuttingedge green technologies and design. They provide the school with much-needed space to expand its teaching and research programs and keep pace with rising student enrollments, which have grown more than 50 percent since 2007.

“This major expansion of our facilities would not have been possible without the support of Duke University leaders, the Nicholas School Board of Visitors, hundreds of friends and alumni who share our commitment to fostering a sustainable future, and—last but not least—the dogged perseverance of my predecessor in the dean’s office, Bill Chameides,” says Dean Alan R. Townsend.

“All members of the Duke and Nicholas School communities,” he says, “should take pride in knowing that together, we have built a foundation upon which the Nicholas School can continue to grow for decades to come.”

a living laboratory

The centerpiece of the new expansions is the $40 million Duke Environment Hall. Designed to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Platinum standards, the highest level of sustainability, the new five-story hall houses the 105-seat Field Auditorium, five classrooms, a 32-seat computer lab, the Wegner Environmental Art Gallery, and 117 offices or office spaces, as well as conference rooms, workrooms, study spaces and an open-air courtyard. 

The hall’s landscaping and site design meet the guidelines of the Sustainable Sites Initiative, a national sustainability effort similar to the LEED rating system,

An edible orchard and planting of drought-tolerant grasses, shrubs and native shade trees, including longleaf pines and blight-resistant American chestnuts, reduce water use and runoff and provide habitat for wildlife. The building itself sits on the site of a former parking lot to further reduce the loss of permeable green space. “

As a LEED Platinum building, Duke Environment Hall demonstrates Duke’s commitment to environmental leadership through research, education and practice,” says William L. Chameides, former dean of the Nicholas School, who spearheaded the planning, design and construction of the hall. “It serves not only as a functional—and beautiful—showcase of sustainable design, but also as a living laboratory where faculty, staff and students can put the latest technologies and theories to the test.”

Renovated offices and wet labs in the A wing of the Levine Science Research Center, which is attached to Duke Environment Hall by a covered walkway, will house the school’s Earth and Ocean Sciences faculty, who until now were located across campus in the Old Chem Building.

“Thanks to the long-term vision and commitment of Duke’s leaders, we are finally able to bring all elements of our Durham-based programs under one roof,” Chameides says.

The new building and renovations are essential for accommodating the growth the school’s Durham-based programs have experienced in recent years, says Townsend, Since 2007, matriculation into the two-year Master of Environmental Management and Master of Forestry programs has more than doubled. Undergraduate and PhD populations have also grown, as have the number of full-time faculty members and the courses, degree concentrations and certificate programs they oversee.

engineered for its environment

Three hours east of Durham at the Duke Marine Lab, the new Orrin H. Pilkey Research Laboratory also is helping lay a foundation for continued growth.

“The Pilkey Laboratory provides our faculty and students with the cutting-edge resources they need to explore new frontiers in marine science in a space designed and built with sensitivity to the changing coastal environment,” says Cindy L. Van Dover, director of the Marine Lab.

The $6.75 million building, located on the southern tip of Pivers Island overlooking Beaufort Inlet, houses a state-of-theart molecular biology lab, a teaching lab, meeting areas and offices.

Designed to meet or exceed LEED Gold standards for sustainability, with a structural design that can withstand 132- mph hurricanes and major flooding with minimal damage, it is the first new research building constructed at the Marine Lab since the 1970s.

The laboratory is named for Orrin H. Pilkey, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of Geology. Pilkey is a longtime faculty member of the Nicholas School and one of America’s most widely cited coastal geologists and experts on sustainable coastal development.