Raleigh, N.C. — The new Nature Research Center at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, which is on track to have more than 1 million visitors in 2012, has quickly become a hit for those looking to take an educational trip in downtown Raleigh.
And while the exhibits are what generate the most excitement, the behind-the-scenes features – all the way down to the materials that were used to build the wing – are what make the building a perfect example of green construction.
The rooftop terrace is a prime example, serving as both a nice place to take a break and a hub for many of the Nature Research Center's environmentally friendly design features.
Exhibit director Roy Campbell says rainwater flows from the terrace garden into a giant cistern in the back of the building.
"That water is lightly treated and then used to flush our toilet systems," Campbell said.
Panels on the roof pre-heat water while others generate electricity, and the glass atrium allows natural light through the building. The panels, which move with the sun during the day, offer the perfect amount of heat and light, Campbell said.
The building materials used to build the 80,000-square foot addition were locally sourced as well.
Designers recycled magnolia trees from the building site to use as decorative trim throughout the building. Although the decision to go green isn't cheap, Campbell said the features will save lots of energy and money long term.
"There's an upfront cost building a green building, but it measures on the life of a building," he said. "There's a great savings to the taxpayer."
Campbell also said the Nature Research Center can serve as a model for other state buildings in the future thanks to the state's natural resources and its people.
"There is a great, bright future for North Carolina," he said. "That's really what we're trying to do here."
On Friday, the museum will stay open until 9 p.m. as part of downtown Raleigh's First Friday celebration.