Thursday, December 3, 2009

Case Study: Golden Belt, Durham NC

Above: The Durham, North Carolina based rehabilitated warehouse attained the level of LEED-NC Certified although it's an existing building. Top image was taken in 2009 and the bottom image was taken in 1901.
Copyright: Scientific Properties

By Jill Bellenger, CPH | Associate ASLA

Creative and eco-conscious residents in Durham, North Carolina know just the place to live, work, and play. Golden Belt, a 155,000 sf. former manufacturing facility dating back to 1901, became a newly renovated mixed-use, urban arts complex, completed in July 2008.

The 7.5 acre complex is spread out over six buildings complete with artist studios and lofted apartments, as well as thousands of square feet for office, retail and restaurants. Durham-based developers Scientific Properties began the project in 2006, and have strived to ultimately create a beautifully sustainable live/work environment on this former brownfield site.

Currently Golden Belt is registered with the US Green Building Council to become a LEED certified project. It's an interesting case because Scientific Properties was charged with the task of adhering to Federal National Register guidelines while emphasizing high performance green construction every step of the way. Historic windows were given new life with high-performance glazing, and a total of 95% of the original building was reused, allowing Golden Belt's unique character to show through.

Tucker Bartlett, Chief Operating Officer at Scientific Properties, admits there was a bit of a learning curve involved as even in 2006 they found very few resources to help them navigate the LEED process. But bringing on an energy modeling company and commissioning agent to the project team allowed the developers the chance to coordinate their goals more effectively.

I asked Gary Kueber, the Development Manager at Scientific Properties and current project manager for Golden Belt, if he could describe his experience integrating LEED and sustainable principles into the project's design and construction. He responded that, "within the company, everyone was very much in favor of achieving LEED certification and a very sustainable project beyond what is covered by LEED. One aspect of this was our involvement with the community, including assistance with formation of a neighborhood association, renovation of several abandoned houses nearby, partnership with Habitat for Humanity in creating homeownership in the adjacent neighborhood, etc."

Gary also explained that, "overall, making decisions to reuse and preserve the buildings, and build within an urban context helped us a great deal. Regarding obstacles, achieving LEED certification with historic tax credit properties is challenging, and not everyone involved in trades, energy modeling or similar is sure how to interpret USGBC guidelines for application to historic buildings - particularly a 6 building, 155,000 square foot project being submitted as a campus."

When asked whether the team experienced any setbacks along the way, Gary went on to say, "I think, in retrospect, starting LEED processes even earlier in the design process would have been helpful."

For more information about Golden Belt, please see or

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