AIA NC’s New ‘Green’ Headquarters / Frank Harmon

Courtesy of

After two years of planning and waiting for financing, the North Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects, designed by Frank Harmon Architect PA, finally held its official, public groundbreaking ceremony for its new headquarters building and design center on Thursday, December 9, at 11:30 a.m.

The building will be constructed on an oddly shaped, previously unused lot on Peace and Wilmington streets between Peace College and the NC Government Complex.  The new building will also be designed to meet LEED standards at the Platinum level. The AIA NC Center for Architecture & Design will be “a modern building with a green heart,” as Frank Harmon, FAIA, likes to call it, whose firm won a professional competition for the project in 2008. More images and project description after the break.

Courtesy of Frank Harmon

The late Samuel Mockbee, FAIA, once said the architectural profession should “challenge the status quo into making responsible environmental and social changes.” Inspired by that concept, this design for the new AIA/NC headquarters demonstrates another — “healthy urbanism” — which we define as:

- responding to, respecting, and conserving the urban site
- promoting and demonstrating sustainable design principles, both low-tech applications and high-tech innovations
- embracing the honesty and possibilities of Modern architecture
- bringing pleasure and quality to the cityscape

Courtesy of Frank Harmon

Since the central discipline for urbanism is architecture, this design aspires to become a role model for healthy urbanism, both for chapter members and future development in downtown . The previous headquarters did this by adaptively re-using an historic structure. The new headquarters faces a 21st Century challenge, however: the global necessity to conserve and protect our natural resources. We are obligated to be exemplary.

Courtesy of Frank Harmon

In this project, building and landscape are designed as one interlocking, interdependent system, paying deference to the natural topography and reusing every shovelful of earth: Where soil is removed from one position on the site to allow the structure’s narrow footprint to slip easily into its urban setting, it is reused in another. The innovative parking garden — where porous paving supports automobiles yet reads as open, green space — eliminates storm water runoff and models an effective solution for parking needs, which could be emulated throughout the city. It also provides an outdoor gathering space for chapter and community events, AIA/NC’s outreach program.

Courtesy of Frank Harmon

The building is a Modern shell with a green heart. Through its clean lines, clear construction (systems revealed to show the “marks of its makers”), broad roof overhang, and careful fenestration, it is oriented on the site to protect the interior from the harsh summer sun and to make the most of natural day-lighting and ventilation, thus reducing energy consumption and costs. The building’s Modern aesthetic accommodates a vegetated roof to filter rainwater, mitigate the heat-island effect in the inner city, and introduce the concept of “green” roofs to downtown Raleigh. Rainwater collection cisterns capture and reuse every drop of rainwater on the site – another role model for the city as Raleigh continues to confront drought conditions.

The scale of the building focuses on human comfort and socio-cultural concerns. It greets the Peace Street neighborhood at its natural grade – a friendly gesture – and establishes an “urban edge” along that rapidly developing section of the city. An open porch at that elevation underscores the sense of outreach and welcome towards the community – in the same manner, perhaps, that Moses Mordecai extended “open arms” to the town when he added a large front porch onto his house a few blocks away.

Courtesy of Frank Harmon

At the opposite end of the building, structure and landscape rise, both physically and symbolically, to greet the Government Complex along the higher elevation and forge a strong tie with the government entities there.

The overriding objective of this concept is to demonstrate and encourage aesthetic and ecological integrity – to create a flagship for North Carolina architecture that is architecturally, environmentally, politically, socially and aesthetically inspiring.

Construction should be completed in 10-12 months.

Cite: Furuto, Alison. "AIA NC’s New ‘Green’ Headquarters / Frank Harmon" 15 Dec 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • Holcim Awards

    What a wonderful description. So informative and poetic. Taking into account social and environmental issues is admirable and makes this a perfect project to submit to the Holcim Awards.

  • Kim Weiss

    Thank you, Alison and Arch Daily!!!