Designing for Uncertainty and Sustainability

Bill Davis, North Carolina State University
Andrew Cherry, Flad Architects

Utilizing a new method for programming and designing large-scale, grant driven research facilities, North Carolina State University's Plant Sciences Building aims to maximize the collaborative potential among disciplines across the university, as well as among industry and academic organizations. This presentation will address the process of developing a flexible program that addresses the uncertain nature of future research domains, and how that process was applied to design this 184,000-square-foot facility in a campus context.

Designed to achieve LEED v4 Silver certification, this session will also review a variety of innovative approaches to sustainability, including heat recovery systems, chilled beam systems, variable cooling for greenhouse compartments, and more.

The resulting design reflects a resource-intensive program that includes molecular imaging, genomics and proteomics facilities, containment greenhouses, and plant growth chambers, providing a platform with the longevity to support generations of research groups with minimal renovation.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the approach and process of designing for unknown present and future users.
  • Review the approach to balancing efficiency goals with the energy demands of unknown future research processes.
  • Learn how to use the planning process as a vehicle for integrating plant science ideals in the facility design.
  • Understand how to exemplify programmatic goals and sustainability features in a campus context.


Bill Davis, RA, LEED AP, received a Bachelor’s Degree from Lehigh University and a Master of Architecture from Washington University in St. Louis. He has been a registered architect since 1996 and has practiced in Missouri and Pennsylvania in addition to North Carolina. Bill has worked on many different types of projects, ranging from small residential renovations, new and renovated K-12 schools, floating casinos in Mississippi and Louisiana, and the rainwater collection system at the Legislative Building in Raleigh. Bill is the Associate Director of Formal Design, Capital Project Management, and was the design project manager for the Reynolds Coliseum Renovation and Talley Student Union. He has been with NC State for 9 years, working in Energy Management prior to moving to Capital Project Management in 2011.

Andrew is a knowledgeable architect with experience in the planning, design, and delivery of academic facilities for teaching and research. His experience spans all phases of the design process from programming and conceptual design through construction administration. As a valuable member of the project team, Andrew works collaboratively to incorporate design criteria, building codes, standards, and complex building systems into innovative, functional solutions.


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