By David Crawford, Executive Vice President of the AIA North CarolinaCenter for Architecture & Design in Raleigh, NC.
There are very few moments in one’s career when hindsight tells you, “I really did the right thing at that point.” The North Carolina AIA’s decision to move forward with the building of our new Center for Architecture & Design in downtown Raleigh was one of them. Against all odds, the building was completed just this winter, and stands as a testimony not only to sustainable building, but sheer will. We were one of a few new construction projects that managed to survive the 2008/2009 financial crises. And none of it would have been possible without the generous contributions from companies like James M. Pleasants Co. (JMP).
JMP’s donation of ten geothermal heat pumps (and some additional base-mounted pumps) was pivotal for us. It was the first large equipment donation for the project, which we had fought hard to keep alive by researching and then applying for bond financing made possible through the 2009 American Stimulus Act. For a while, we weren’t sure if this building, which so many had already poured so much time and heart into, would ever make it beyond the drawing table. And our struggles weren’t over yet.
Why GeothermalThe equipment donation from JMP, which came to approximately $65,000.00, helped set the wheels in motion at a very critical time. It also enabled us to stick with a geothermal heating and cooling system, which was truly central to the sustainability path we had chosen for the project. It is probably the largest demonstration item in the building. Several of the heat pumps are prominently visible through a glass wall that allows building occupants and visitors to peer into the mechanical room.
Geothermal has a higher capital cost than many other heating and cooling options, but the payback was attractive at 7 to 8 years. Plus, we really felt that this was the perfect choice for a building that is designed to a LEED Platinum level. For this reason, our committee of architects were really determined not to let this part of the design fall victim to value engineering. We were very fortunate that JMP stepped in and allowed us to keep a system that is so central to the mission of this unique building.
NC Generosity Runs Deep
We would have faced even more challenges had we lost the opportunity to incorporate geothermal. The downtown lot where we chose to build is a relatively small size and odd shape; in fact, it’s known as the “pork chop”. On it, we had to squeeze 34 parking spaces, which didn’t leave much room for a 12,000 sq.ft. building, much less any outdoor heating and cooling equipment. The rooftop was not an option, either. The building, which is sandwiched between Peace College and the NC Governmental Complex, would be very visible to the public. The last thing we wanted to do was clutter its silhouette with a lot of rooftop equipment. So, (20) 350 ft. vertical geothermal wells drilled discreetly beneath parking lot was really our best option.
We’re proud of our new AIA headquarters, which not only showcases the architectural vision of renowned NC architect Frank Harmon, but also so much of North Carolina’s heritage. For instance, Frank purposely chose to use a lot of stone and steel, which are traditional building materials in North Carolina. There is an exterior wall constructed from a colorful blend of stones from all over North Carolina. It is very unique and quite special.
It’s fitting that a building, which was built with the generosity of North Carolina companies like JMP, is heated and cooled using North Carolina earth. Those wells and that generosity run deep in this state, and we are so grateful to be able to showcase both to our visitors.