RTP, research triangle, park, NC, north carolina, master plan

Located on a then-rural tract of land between the university cities of Raleigh (NCSU), Durham (Duke University), and Chapel Hill (UNC) the 7,000-acre Research Triangle Park was established in 1959. Since then, it has attracted over 170 companies with more than 39,000 employees. The Research Triangle Foundation, developer of the park, has recently recognized that “the remaining vacant sites at the Park are not sufficient to serve the next 50 years of need.” However, with wise planning, the foundation believes that the park “can yield ample additional development capacity… The challenge and the opportunity [are] in discovering how and where this significant potential can be unlocked in an appropriate way.”

The foundation’s plan is broad, encompassing such issues as “regional connectivity, access, transit, land use, landscape, environmental considerations, and the sustainable infrastructure needed to support projected future development.” However, it includes substantial thinking about how to implement development sustainably, considering issues of water, energy, waste, transportation, landscape, buildings, and urban design.

RTP, research triangle, park, NC, north carolina, master plan

In its current form, the park does little to create a definable center. The new plan is based on a “clustered” urban design form that will serve the purposes of the park’s tenants and employees, while enhancing walkability and minimizing environmental disturbance. The plan calls for three “guided development areas” with the working designations of Triangle Commons, Park Center, and Kit Creek Center. Park planners anticipate integrating with the commuter rail system planned for the Triangle region, as well as developing enhanced public transport within the park itself.

Landscape goals include the preservation of open and green space, wetlands, watersheds, and wildlife habitat. Architectural practices, which are controlled jointly between the foundation and the park’s owners and tenants association, will stress green building design and LEED-certified construction. The plan calls for minimizing water consumption and pursuing opportunities for reuse of wastewater. Development activities will “Integrate storm water management features, including rain gardens and bio-swales, into open space design to manage the quantity and quality of storm water runoff.”

Energy efficiency and production of renewable energy are important goals. At the Triangle Commons cluster, the first one slated for development at the park, the foundation plans to incorporate a combined cooling, heating, and power plant (CCHP), along with “local energy centers” that would be owned and operated by individual building owners for heating and cooling. The plan calls for implementation of photovoltaic (PV) solar systems and geothermal energy in the park. The park will have its own material recovery facility for recycling and waste reduction.

Photos and illustrations courtesy of the Research Triangle Foundation

+ The Research Triangle Park