Monday, October 22, 2012

Duke Farms - Living Habitats: Center for Land Stewardship and Sustainability

By: Erin Nuckols, Sustainable Building Associate
M.A. History

At the Association for Preservation Trades / Preservation Trades Network joint conference in Charleston, South Carolina, I attended a session under the auspice of “Sustainable Preservation.” Little did I know, I had stumbled upon one of the most interesting case studies to date for environmental and cultural stewardship – Duke Farms.

Orchid Range at Duke Farms
This lesser known historic site rests quietly in Hillsborough, New Jersey. Through their commitment as a center for land stewardship and sustainability, Duke Farms invites visitors to enjoy and learn about the natural environment while also appreciating the cultural value of the estate. Established in 1893, the farmstead quickly grew to over 2,000 acres and became one of the most magnificent estates the world had seen. Several of the original structures exist on the site today, two of which are in full-working condition and utilized by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to educate visitors.

Renovations began on the two structures in 2008. Housed in the Farm Barn (c.1906), the Orientation Center invites visitors to explore the history and ecology of the estate through interactive displays and exhibits. The Orientation Center features a small cafĂ© with healthy food options and Eco-kits for visitors that contain binoculars, a compass, a note pad and pencil, and a field guide for identifying plants and animals. While the Orchid Range (c.1903), provides a tour of a Coastal Plain garden and an orchid display. Adjacent to the Farm Barn is a constructed wetlands waste water system. The Farm Barn and other structures on the site are powered by a 640-kilowatt ground mounted solar array.  Restoration of the structures was environmentally conscious. The Farm Barn achieved LEED Platinum and the Orchid Range is under review for LEED Platinum, both in New Construction.

Duke Farms is free to the public along with provide a wide variety of educational opportunities for families, adults, and professionals.  Ecological stewardship is an important concept on the farm. They believe in an active process that connects with the land through recognition of plant and animal communities, attention to soil and water use, and innovative planning and implementation of best management practices. The Green Initiatives that the farm focuses on are: Adaptive Reuse of Buildings, Renewable Energy, and Care of the Environment. The farm promotes research projects in environmental stewardship and has a community garden on site that allows members of the community to grow during the April to November growing season, encouraging organic and responsible agricultural methods.

I hope you get a chance to visit Duke Farms someday. Please continue to keep in mind the value of Integrated Design and Adaptive Reuse when considering your next project. A regenerative community is one that goes above and beyond the structure you are in - it is educational foundation that you depart with and the “pay it forward” mentality that matter greatly to shifting our paradigm.