Orrin Pilkey Laboratory

The Orrin Pilkey research laboratory is the first new research space to be added to the Marine Laboratory campus of Duke University since the construction of the Bookhout Research Laboratory in the 1960s. In addition to research and office space for three faculty members, the Pilkey Lab includes a two-story ‘collisional commons’ where the Pivers Island community can meet and exchange ideas in an informal setting, a conference room, a classroom designed for courses that use molecular techniques, plus office space for graduate students, research staff and visiting faculty.


Orrin Pilkey

Orrin Pilkey is Professor Emeritus of Geology at Duke University. His research has focused on the shifting sands of the Outer Banks of North Carolina and other fragile barrier island systems. Professor Pilkey long used the Marine Laboratory as his base for field courses and research; his alliance is long and deep and revered. His name is given to this research laboratory in honor of his contributions to Duke University, his highest standards of research, and his superb mentorship of young scientists.


Sea-Level Rise, Hurricanes, and Coastal Construction

The Pilkey Laboratory is located on Pivers Island, an inner island of the North Carolina coast, protected from the ocean by inner and outer barrier islands. Hurricane-force winds occasionally batter the coast and, as sea level rises over the next century, storm surge could inundate the lowest portions of the island. As Duke University considered new construction, attention to hurricanes and sea-level rise were important design specifications.

The Pilkey Laboratory has been engineered to withstand both 132 mph hurricane-force winds and flooding with minimal damage.


Major Environmental Features of the Pilkey Laboratory

The Pilkey Laboratory has been designed to target the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) ‘Gold’ standards in the ‘Leadership in Energy and Environment Design’ (LEED) rating system.

Environmental features include:

  • Site Design – Located on the southern tip of Pivers Island, the entire site is designed to take advantage of prevailing winds and sunlight. Water efficient landscaping utilizing native plants and a constructed sand dune system are in place, inspired by the natural landscapes on the adjacent barrier islands. The majority of hardscapes consists of permeable and light-reflecting concrete and gravel paver systems which help minimize storm water runoff and reduce the heat island effect. Secondary entrances to the building have raised wood decks over gravel bases that promote water filtration at the building’s edge.
  • Heating and Cooling – Mechanical systems are designed to achieve over 35% energy cost savings. A closed-loop geothermal vertical ground source circulation system takes advantage of the constant temperature of the groundwater below the building for heating and cooling. This is supplemented by a conventional heat pump system. All air systems re-circulate air for maximum efficiency. The heating and cooling system is controlled by a building automated system which ties into and can be monitored by both the Marine Laboratory campus and the Main Campus in Durham.
  • Regional/Recycled Materials – Material selection has been guided by a goal of 30% regional materials produced within 500 miles of the building site in Beaufort, and 10% materials utilizing recycled content. These materials include the concrete and wood comprising the building’s foundations and structural framing, CMU base that is used for resistance to future SLR, locally sourced Cypress wood siding on the interior and exterior walls, laboratory casework, concrete pavers, and gravel paving.
  • Natural Light and Ventilation – The Pilkey Laboratory is designed for maximum use of natural sunlight and ventilation. All regularly occupied rooms have windows providing views to the campus or to surrounding barrier islands. The main research laboratory has a series of clerestory and countertop height windows providing both natural light and views.
  • Indoor Air Quality – Mechanical systems are designed to minimize pollutants in the air and create a healthy building environment. Construction measures have been implemented to protect mechanical equipment from construction dust. Low-emitting building materials, including low volatile organic content (VOC ) and zero-VOC paints, adhesives, solvents and sealants, also contribute to the air quality in the building. The main entry is covered with a walk-off mat made of recycled tires to minimize outdoor pollutants from entering the building.
  • Lighting – Lighting systems throughout the Pilkey Laboratory use a combination of vacancy and occupancy sensors that contribute to the energy cost savings of the building. Task lighting is provided to individual users in offices allowing specific control of lighting as required.
  • Water use – The building is designed to reduce water use by 50%, including water efficient landscaping and low-flow plumbing fixtures.
  • Construction waste – Separation of construction debris into recycling or reuse areas was strictly enforced to help divert at least 75% waste from landfills.

Architect and Construction Manager

The Pilkey Laboratory was designed and built by GLUCK+ (formerly Peter Gluck and Partners and Locus Construction), an award-winning New York City firm whose expertise is in Architect Led Design Build: single-source architectural design, construction, and commissioning of buildings.