BEAUFORT, N.C. – With green features inside and out and a structural design that can withstand major hurricanes and flooding with minimal damage, the new Orrin H. Pilkey Research Laboratory at the Duke University Marine Lab is engineered for its environment.

The 12,000-square-foot lab, which is located on the southern tip of Pivers Island overlooking Beaufort Inlet, was dedicated May 4.  It houses a state-of-the-art molecular biology lab, a teaching lab, meeting areas and offices, and is the first new research building constructed at the Marine Lab since the 1970s.

“The Pilkey Laboratory gives us much-needed room to expand our programs and provide our scientists and students with cutting-edge resources in an environmentally sustainable space that has been designed and built with sensitivity to the changing coastal environment,” says Cindy L. Van Dover, director of the Marine Lab.

The new facility is designed to meet or exceed U.S. Green Building Council ‘Gold’ standards in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. 

Its green features include:

  • Natural light and ventilation  – The Pilkey Laboratory is designed to take advantage of Pivers Island’s prevailing winds and sunlight to provide as much natural lighting and ventilation as possible for its interior.  All regularly occupied rooms have windows that provide views to the surrounding barrier islands or the Marine Lab campus.
  • Reduced water use – Low-flow plumbing fixtures, water-wise landscaping using native plants, and other design features reduce the building’s water use by 50 percent.
  • Site design – The use of permeable, light-reflecting materials for walkways and other exterior surfaces helps minimize storm water runoff and reduce the heat-island effect.  Native plants and a constructed sand dune system reflect the natural landscapes found on adjacent barrier islands.
  • Energy-efficient heating and cooling – The building’s mechanical systems are designed to cut energy costs by about 35 percent. A closed-loop geothermal vertical ground source circulation system takes advantage of the constant temperature of groundwater below the building for heating and cooling.  All air systems recirculate air for maximum efficiency. The heating and cooling system is controlled by an automated building-wide system which ties into and can be monitored at both the Marine Lab and Duke’s main campus in Durham.
  • Smart lighting systems – Vacancy and occupancy sensors throughout the building help reduce the use of lighting when rooms are unoccupied. 
  • Use of recycled and regional materials – About 30 percent of the materials used in the building, including the weather-resistant cypress wood interior and exterior siding, were produced within 500 miles of Beaufort. About 10 percent of the materials also contained recycled content.
  • Less construction waste – Separation of construction debris into recycling or reuse areas was strictly enforced to help divert at least 75 percent of the waste from landfills.
  • Indoor air quality – The building’s mechanical systems are designed to minimize air pollutants and create a healthy indoor environment. Low-VOC or zero-VOC paints, sealants, adhesives and solvents also contribute to air quality in the building. The main entry is covered with a mat made of recycled tires to reduce the amount of outdoor pollutants that enter the building. 

Because hurricane-force winds occasionally batter Pivers Island and, as sea level rises over the coming century, storm surge could inundate the lowest portions of the island, the building has been engineered to withstand 132 mph winds and flooding with minimal damage.

The Pilkey Laboratory was designed and built by GLUCK+, formerly Peter Gluck and Partners and Locus Construction, of New York City.

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