North Carolina Sustainable Building Design Competition

November 01, 2009
November/December 2009
A version of this article appears in the November/December 2009 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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A sustainable future is not possible without the dedication of professionals, leaders, teachers, and students to bring about change in their communities. In the spirit of Earth Day, which is the observance of protecting the environment and the planet, professors, instructors, and community college and university students gathered at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, North Carolina, to compete in the annual North Carolina Sustainable Building Design Competition (NCSBDC). The annual downtown Raleigh Earth Day observance brings in thousands of visitors, with the NCSBDC being one of many featured events.

The NCSBDC introduces sustainable design and construction practices to community college and university students across North Carolina and beyond. Students form teams of three to five members and with the direction of their professors and mentors, design a residential or light commercial building for a particular region of North Carolina. After competing locally, the winners travel to the state event, and those winners compete at the national level.

The competition is sponsored and managed by Advanced Energy and the North Carolina Solar Center in the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University. The program was the brainchild of Phil Mayrand Jr. of Topsail Island, North Carolina. Phil’s passion for sustainable development and green construction inspired him to challenge the students of Appalachian State University to design an addition to his home, offering the winner a monetary prize. Phil took the winning design and followed through with actual construction. He later presented the idea of a statewide competition to several professionals in the sustainable and green building industries and thus began the annual NCSBDC. The competition draws interest from colleges and universities nationwide.

Sustainable North Carolina

The first NCSBDC was held in 2000. Its purpose was to address growing concerns about long-term sustainability and the role of the design and building industries in creating a healthy and viable future. The program provides college students with the opportunity to gain experience in the principles of sustainable design, which is central to the program’s vision. As these students enter the workforce, they bring this experience with them—for example, real-world experience in LEED standards. Through the program, student teams are challenged to design a structure for a specific client. The winners of the local competitions go to the state competition, and the design that wins the state competition is constructed. Working in conjunction with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Emerging Green Builder (EGB), and the Natural Talent Design Competition, NCSBDC, provides an applied learning experience in the principles of integrated design, sustainability, innovation, and social consciousness.

This year the top design at the state competition will be reviewed, and may be built by Community Alternatives for Supportive Abodes (CASA), in Raleigh. In addition, the first-place winner of the state competition will move on to compete for a national award at GreenBuild Phoenix 2009, the USGBC’s annual green building conference and expo.
The design competition challenge for 2009 was to create a two-story, multifamily, residential building to meet the needs of CASA, a local organization that provides high-quality affordable supportive housing for tenants with mental illness, developmental disabilities, or substance abuse disorders. The approximately 6,000 ft2 building included nine individual apartments and an indoor community space for meetings and gatherings. The building was designed to high-energy efficiency standards, approximately equivalent to LEED Platinum, and included sustainable design elements in the categories of indoor environmental quality, water efficiency, material selection, hazard mitigation, community preservation, and affordability. The project included universal accessibility and complied with HUD design standards.

The winning teams for the 2009 competition were Cape Fear Community College (first and third place); Appalachian State University (second place); and Forsyth Community College (honorable mention). Following the statewide competition, the first-place team is invited to attend the design charrette in Raleigh. The goal of this session is to get the winning design into working plans that the architect and builder can actually use. Student participation is critical to ensure that the original intention of the design is maintained. This provides an excellent learning experience for the students.

The NCSBDC has had a measurable impact on education, resources, and public awareness. It has led to an increase in sustainable design curricula; it has provided new and innovative designs for developers of affordable housing; it has inspired internationally recognized professionals; and it has led to an increase in partnerships, sponsors, and networking opportunities for students and the building industry. The 2009 competition year brought many successes. The cumulative effect over the past ten years has been outstanding.  

Dr. Pam Page Carpenter serves as the Project Coordinator for K-20 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education for the North Carolina Solar Center at North Carolina State University.

For more information:
To learn how your school can participate in the NCSBDC, contact the author at
To learn more about the North Carolina Solar Center, go to

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