Innovation Barn

Project Details

Client

Envision Charlotte & City of Charlotte

Location

Charlotte, NC

Scale

36,000 Square Feet

Cost

$5,000,000

Completion

2021

The Innovation Barn is ground zero for Circular Charlotte, a joint venture between Envision Charlotte and the City of Charlotte to transition Charlotte to a circular economy. The Innovation Barn is home to several entrepreneurial businesses and zero-waste initiatives, as well as community spaces for education and implementation of circular projects. It is the first innovation center in the United States fully focused on transition to a circular economy. The City of Charlotte owns the building and Envision Charlotte manages, designs, and implements the programming.

Objectives

  • Reduce the amount of material going to the landfill through innovative recycling projects
  • Upcycle materials
  • Design out waste
  • Create new opportunities for materials that create jobs and innovation

Outcomes 

Principal objectives in the planning of the Innovation Barn included designing in accordance with Circular Economy principles – striving for zero waste during construction. The project incorporates 96% of the existing structure, honoring its history while being home to services that will take it well into the future.

The project is currently pursuing LEED v4 Building Design + Construction Certification and has worked with the Duke Energy Design Assistance Program to provide energy modeling and sustainable strategies to realize additional energy efficiency.

Sustainable design efforts include a focus on water and energy efficiency, material transparency and circularity, and indoor environmental quality – all contributing to the health and well-being of volunteers and visitors. In addition, several products were salvaged from demolition projects around the city and reused in support of circular principles.

The operations of current and future tenants are based on circular economy principles and provide real-time examples of how a circular economy functions. Tenants and programs on site operate at zero waste. Examples include:

  • The mushroom garden takes waste from the coffee shop, the aquaponics/hydroponics garden, and the black soldier fly composting operation and utilizes it for mushroom growing soil.
  • The Co2 generated from the black soldier fly composting is pumped into the aquaponics/hydroponic garden to aid plant growth.
  • Waste from the teaching kitchen is sent to the composting operation while the fish raised in the aquaponics garden are harvested for use in the teaching kitchen.
  • A portion of the black soldier fly larvae are used to feed the fish in the aquaponic garden.
  • Current and future efforts within the incubator space will take plastics and other products that are not composted and grind them down to be used in demonstration projects showing how to upcycle those materials.
  • Urban Lumber utilizes trees that have fallen from Charlotte’s tree canopy and upcycles the wood into creatively designed furniture and other items such as building materials.

Local artists painted murals around the property and sculptor Amy Hart created pieces including a giant rabbit, flowers, and ants made from recycled materials, plastic bottles, and cans, keeping them in circulation in inventive and beautiful ways.

Environments

Community