A conceptual rendering of what the Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research at App State might look like once completed. Note, designs for the conservatory are still in development. Click on the image for a full view. Graphic courtesy of Lord Aeck Sargent
The Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research is one of several major projects being planned at Appalachian State University to enhance the App State Experience.
The project supports the strategic plan of App State and the university’s goals and metrics associated with the University of North Carolina System’s strategic plan. It will benefit students, academics and the community.
This video provides an aerial view of App State’s Innovation District — the future home of the Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research. The district will be located at the site of the former Broyhill Inn and Conference Center on Bodenheimer Drive.
The conservatory will be the first academic building of App State’s Innovation District, located at the site of the former Broyhill Inn and Conference Center on Bodenheimer Drive. This facility, which is included in the first development phase for the district, will include cross-disciplinary collaboration and encourage K–12 partnerships. Other components of phase one include faculty and staff housing and a district energy system.
Paired with the adjacent Nature Preserve, the conservatory will advance knowledge surrounding the natural and cultural history of the Southern Appalachian region, allowing the App State Community and visitors to:
- understand the natural history and economic importance of our region’s biodiversity; and
- gain a heightened appreciation of the research and creative endeavors being conducted at App State.
The approximately 50,000-square-foot facility will have up to four different climate zones in its conservatory portion, as well as a full suite of biology laboratories, classroom space and large event spaces, with adjacent public and research gardens designed to showcase the biodiversity of regional flora.
Additionally, the conservatory will be among the nation’s first academic research facilities built to the rigorous sustainability standards of the Living Building Challenge (LBC) — meaning the building must generate more energy than it uses and be made of materials that are healthy for the environment, with all water captured and treated on site.
The conservatory will build on existing opportunities available through the Department of Biology’s teaching and research facilities.
A conceptual rendering of what the Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research at App State might look like once completed. Note, designs for the conservatory are still in development. Graphic courtesy of Lord Aeck Sargent
This artist’s rendering presents a view of the Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research from one of the gardens planned for the conservatory’s home, App State’s Innovation District. Note, designs for the conservatory are still in development. Graphic courtesy of Lord Aeck Sargent
A view of the Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research from the entrance of the Innovation District, as shown in this artist’s rendering. Note, designs for the conservatory are still in development. Graphic courtesy of Lord Aeck Sargent
This artist’s rendering shows an interior view of the Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research — the first academic facility of App State’s Innovation District. Note, designs for the conservatory are still in development. Graphic courtesy of Lord Aeck Sargent
An interior view of what App State's Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research could look like once construction of the facility is completed, as depicted in this artist's rendering. Note, designs for the conservatory are still in development. Graphic courtesy of Lord Aeck Sargent
App State’s targeted opening date for the conservatory is 2025. Construction for the Innovation District's first phase of development began in late July 2023, with the installation of erosion control fences and the removal of trees.
Recent construction work includes the drilling of geothermal wells and the installation of lateral piping that connects the wells. These wells are part of a geothermal system — a component of the district's zero-carbon energy system — that will serve both the conservatory and the faculty and staff housing. Additionally, crews are installing site utilities, including stormwater and sewer systems, and land grading is nearing completion
A ceremonial groundbreaking for the first development phase of the Innovation District, which includes the conservatory, was held March 25, 2022.
App State hired architectural engineering firm Clark Nexsen to conduct a feasibility study for the conservatory, and the firm presented its report on Jan. 30, 2019 — after weeks of meeting with a variety of stakeholders to determine the best mix of gardens, conservatory, labs and meeting space. The report was reviewed by university leaders, and App State has selected Radnor Property Group LLC (Radnor) to manage the conservatory’s design and construction.
Architecture firm Lord Aeck Sargent is the university’s selected designer for the conservatory, and Muter Construction and Greene Construction will serve as joint venture partners for the facility’s construction. The University of North Carolina System Board of Governors approved the pre-development letter of intent for the district’s first phase in July 2022. This agreement with Radnor will allow App State to deliver phase one of the Innovation District as quickly and efficiently as possible. Academic programming for the facility was determined in spring 2022.
This image shows the potential layout for the first floor of App State’s Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research, which includes a mix of classroom, office, laboratory and greenhouse space, in addition to the facility’s conservatory space. Note, this image does not reflect the finalized layout design for the conservatory, which is still in development. Graphic courtesy of Lord Aeck Sargent
This conceptual rendering of App State’s Innovation District shows options for the project, including the Conservatory for Biodiversity Education and Research, housing for faculty and staff, and shared parking. Graphic courtesy of Brailsford & Dunlavey
How is it funded?
Expenses for the conservatory feasibility study completed by Clark Nexsen were paid with state funds through App State’s Division of Academic Affairs.
Funding allocated to App State by the North Carolina General Assembly as part of the FY 2021–22 biennial budget bill, signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper on Nov. 18, 2021, allows the university to begin work on the conservatory. The budget includes $79 million for capital projects — including $54 million in non-recurring funds to begin work on the Innovation District — and $43.15 million for one-time repair and renovation project support.
At its March 24, 2023, meeting, App State’s Board of Trustees authorized an additional $7.5 million in funding for the conservatory project, which was approved by the UNC System Board of Governors during the board’s April 2023 meeting.
Who will benefit?
Students in App State’s College of Arts and Sciences and their faculty mentors will use the conservatory’s state-of-the art research space for basic and applied research. Visitors, including K-12 students and community members, will benefit from the scientific exhibits and demonstrations informed by the research conducted at the facility.
How does it support UNC System Goals and Metrics?
App State can produce more graduates in the critical workforce areas for North Carolina — identified in the UNC System’s strategic plan as STEM, K-12 education, health sciences, and emerging workforce areas — who are capable of addressing the needs of the world.
Appalachian's Innovation District Video Transcript
Voiceover: In 1899, the misty ridges of Northwestern North Carolina became home to a simple, yet powerful vision: to transform lives and the region through the empowerment of education. Nearly 125 years later, students still feel the pull of this unique place, and Appalachian State University remains grounded in the vision of our founders, providing rural access to a sterling education and serving the region.
As the University of North Carolina System continues to expand signature educational opportunities in Western North Carolina, Appalachian’s contribution to this effort is an Innovation District, which will enhance curriculum while delivering a profound impact on the region’s economic development.
Located at the edge of a 65-acre nature preserve, the Innovation District will provide a vital link between the university and the regional community through education, research and outreach.
As the Innovation District develops, it will provide a vital and dynamic space where students and faculty will work together with industry partners in specialized areas that capitalize on App State’s strengths and regional identity. Collaborations across colleges and disciplines will prepare students for career progression in a dynamic work environment.
Nearly 125 years after B.B., D.D. and Lillie Shull Dougherty set forth on their ambitious plan, App State’s pioneering vision is bolder than ever.
Major current projects:
- App State Hickory Campus
- Innovation District
- Holmes Parking Deck
- Peacock Hall Addition and Renovation
- Wey Hall Renovation
- Edwin Duncan Hall Renovation
- Appalachian 105
- Newland Hall Renovation
- Arts Corridor
- Boone Creek Daylighting
Major completed projects:
- Dining Facilities Renovations — Central Dining Hall and Trivette Hall
- University Bookstore Renovation
- Residence Halls
- Child Development Center Expansion
- Kidd Brewer Stadium — North End Zone
- Career Development Center relocation
- Sanford Hall Renovation
- Blue Ridge Way
- NPHC Plots and Garden
- Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences
- Founders Plaza
An aerial view of areas receiving millennial campus designation at Appalachian State University. Video by Marie Freeman