Sustainable Design Demonstration Site
In parternship with the Town of Nags Head, Dare County Cooperative Extension Service, NC Aquarium at Roanoke Island and Earth Saver LLC, the UNC Coastal Studies Institute assisted in the design and construction of an educational demonstration site exhibiting serveral different sustainable coastal development practices. The demonstration site is located at the Harvey's Sound Public Access located on Highway 158 in Nags Head, North Carolina. The site is nearing completetion and will include educational exhibitry explaining both the use and practical application of these technologies in the home.
Impervious surfaces, such as parking lots, can generate large amounts of runoff that stream into our waterways and roads causing flooding and picking up pollutants along the way. If left untreated, polluted stormwater can impair coastal waters and potentially negatively impact these important ecosystems. The Harvey's Sound Access has two parking lots that cover 23,673 square feet. Parking lots of this size can generate up to 15,600 gallons of runoff from a one inch rainfall event. The Harvey's Sound Access is using two raingardens to handle the runoff from the surrounding parking lots.
Raingardens are functional and attractive living systems of plants that treat and manage stormwater runoff. Raingardens, or bioretention areas as they are also called, can be placed in the landscape to to collect runoff - this increases the amount of time stormwater stays on-site allowing it to infiltrate. In addition to infiltration, plants in the raingarden absorb nutrients in the runoff water. Nutrients and runoff can cause algal blooms, which deplete natural waters of oxygen, alter food webs and reduce fish habitat.
Rain gardens are very adaptable and can be appropriately located on just about any piece of property. Their size can be tailored to the amount of runoff and the quality of the soils in the area, as can the plants that populate the garden. Often, one sees rain gardens in parking lot medians and other commercial areas, but they are attractive in a residential setting as well. In all cases, rain gardens are an important feature to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff in a community.
Due to the shallow water table in the coastal region, the design of rain gardens here is especially important. Gardens must be no more than 6-9 inches deep, allowing enough of a dry soil barrier between the surface and the water table for absorption of pathogens and nutrients in the water.
NC Cooperative Extension Backyard Raingarden
Cisterns were once used on the Outer Banks as a source of drinking water for residents and visitors. Rooftops can create a lot of runoff. Your average roof (~1200 square feet) can produce up to 400 gallons of water in a half inch rainfall event. Cisterns allow home owners to capture and use this valuable commodity while reducing runoff from their property.
The Harvey's Sound Access is using cistern water to flush toilets in the public bathrooms. Cisterns are large storage tanks designed to capture rainfall from a roof or another type of catchement area. Untreated cistern water can be used for a variety of non-potable uses (watering lawns, flushing toilets) and with additional filtration can be used for drinking and cooking.
Radiant Solar Water Heating
Radiant solar heat is a cost effective and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional heating methods. Not only can is be used to heat water for domestic use, it can also be used in conjunction with under floor systems for radiant space heating in your home.
The large panel that you see here is a radiant solar panel used to heat water for the public bathrooms. The water in this panel is heated by the sun's energy and piped down into a long coil inside a modified water heater. This coil conducts heat to the surrounding water inside the tank which is used to supply the bathrooms with hot water for washing.