NC State innovative campus garden earns City of Raleigh award

A student-designed and constructed landscape is yet another example of NC State's campus becoming a living lab for students.
A student-designed and constructed landscape is yet another example of NC State’s campus becoming a living lab for students.

A student-staff collaboration to beautify a space in the heart of NC State University’s main campus has been awarded the City of Raleigh’s Sir Walter Raleigh Community Appearance Award for Site Enhancement.

The new landscape area outside Polk Hall is more than meets the eye. With underground steam pipes running beneath the landscape area, no plants had been able to survive the hot soil temperature. After repeated planting failures, Landscape Construction Services joined forces with the Spring 2013 Landscape Construction Studio in the Horticulture Science Department.

“Everything that was planted there failed. The problem the students had to solve was, ‘How do we get plants to grow in that space?’” said Julie Sherk, the studio’s professor.

The students designed and constructed a heat ventilation system to dissipate the heat created from the underground pipes. Constructed of thermal blankets, stone and PVC venting pipes, the system absorbs rising heat from the pipes and vents it away from the soil, which remains cooler and enables plant survival. Students designed the site within a set budget and received equipment and job safety training from Landscape Construction Services.

“It was great because [Landscape Construction Services] brought a lot of their real-world experience,” said student Timothy Weiler. “[They’d say], ‘Even though that’s a great idea, it’s not going to work in this situation.’ And that kind of changed our way of thinking.”

These real-world experiences are vital for students, Sherk said. “We all win. We end up with this beautiful, artful, deliberate landscape that hopefully lifts spirits as people walk by, and [we] solved a tricky problem.”

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