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Renovation FAQS

Learn more about the renovation by viewing a virtual update

Why now?

Why undertake this renovation now?

Our scientists and the staff who support them are tackling environmental issues that you care about – freshwater and forest health, prevention of emerging diseases, and the sustainability of cities. This renovation provides a 21st century building for 21st century science. The modernized facilities will help us advance the science needed for environmental solutions. 

Why do a renovation amidst a pandemic?

Plans to renovate were in the works before the pandemic. The project was put on hold for several months; it is now safe for construction to proceed, with steps for worker protection in place. We can undertake the project with minimal disruptions to our science, as staff are already working from home, or elsewhere on campus. When we can return to working and meeting in-person, we will return to a cutting-edge building that has incorporated modern health and safety features, and is highly energy efficient. Cary will better live its mission.

What is the timeline?

We anticipate the project taking 12-18 months and hope to begin demolition and construction in Fall 2020.

Why not tear down and start over?

The building was built to last using sustainable products. It remains structurally sound after half a century! We are focusing on updating the mechanicals and the way space is used. Renovating the space is greener, cheaper, takes less time, and is far less disruptive to our campus.


Why are you reverting to the original design?

The building made a strong statement about environmental sustainability when it was erected in 1974. It is architecturally significant, and modeled an energy efficient design that was ahead of its time. The original sawtooth roof was renowned for its natural lighting; we look forward to restoring this feature. Rather than putting solar on the roof, we are meeting renewable energy goals via the Bacon Triangle solar array adjacent to our campus. 

What will be the most visible change?

The new entrance to our headquarters will be elegant, easy to find, and visible from Sharon Turnpike.

Will the height of the building change?

We are returning to the original sawtooth roofline, and removing the cap that has hidden it since the 1990s. This will reduce the building’s height by about 5 feet, to a total height of 20 feet. By removing the berms that currently bury about ⅔ of the building, the visual difference is not expected to be great. 

How many square feet are you adding?

The project calls for about 570 square feet be added, for a total of 1,200 feet of additional space for scientists. The rest of this space comes from reclaiming an old squash court used for storage.

Has the pandemic influenced the building’s redesign?

Absolutely. We have added features that protect the health and wellbeing of people in the building, including separate air handling systems. All indoor spaces have their own filtered outdoor air that is not recirculated. Attention has been paid to the need for social distancing, and we are using low-VOC products throughout, hands-free doors and fixtures, antimicrobial surfaces, and design that keeps people connected to nature.

Are you adding additional community space?

We recently renovated the lower level to create the Sir Patrick Bateson FRS Conference Center. Community groups will once again have access to this and the auditorium once the renovation is complete. The conference center will also be updated with features that protect the health and wellbeing of all who visit. We remain committed to sharing our space with local and like-minded groups. 

If you happen to spot an evergreen and a flag on Cary Institute’s roof, here’s why:

For centuries, projects have used cut trees in their Topping Out ceremonies. Cary Institute will be using a live, locally grown, potted white pine and plans to plant the tree on our grounds in gratitude to the forests on which so much of our research and our lives depend. The team at Consigli Construction will guide the tree safely down from the roof and will close out the ritual by carefully folding the US flag. Owing to the project’s focus on sustainability, the beams bear many signatures of Cary staff, supporters, and friends that are likely to remain in place for decades to come.



How is this project being funded?

$12.3M of the $13M cost of the project has been raised or secured to date. We are pleased to report that 100% of our Trustees and key staff have supported the project. We are launching the Campaign for Cary to raise the remaining $700,000.

Local Impacts

Will you be closed during the renovation?

Science never sleeps. Our team has adapted to virtual work during the pandemic and our trails and property will remain open to the public (from April 1 - October 31). We will continue our efforts to provide public programming virtually, reopening the auditorium only when it is safe to do so. The Sir Patrick Bateson FRS Conference Center, in the lower level of our headquarters, will remain closed throughout the renovation.

Will renovation impact access to the trails and grounds?

At the moment, only a short section of trail from the Fern Glen to our headquarters parking lot is likely to be closed. During the height of construction, parking near our main building will be closed, but parking and access to trails will continue to be available elsewhere on the property without interruption.

Are you using local labor/firms and resources?

Yes. Consigli Construction Company in Pleasant Valley is our construction manager and we are working closely with them to subcontract with local vendors wherever possible. We want this project to contribute to Dutchess County's recovery from COVID-19. 

Does the project create new jobs in the short or long term?

Many local jobs will be added during construction. Every effort will be made to hire locally and purchase supplies and materials locally. We recently hired two new scientists who will be starting at the Institute later this year. However, we do not anticipate adding new staff.

Will the project disrupt or increase traffic?

Traffic to our property has been reduced due to the pandemic. Construction will take place while our team is working from home or at other locations on our campus. While there may be occasional disruptions during construction as heavy machines enter and exit the property, we expect these to be minimal and do not anticipate any increased traffic once construction is complete.

Will any trees be taken down?

In the 45 years since our building site was landscaped, things have predictably grown in a lot. There are 20-25 trees immediately surrounding the building that have been deemed a safety issue and will likely be removed. Some are hemlocks infested with hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive insect that is killing trees in our region. Several are very near the roof and will be removed early in this process. None of the trees or other plants in the circle rimmed by our road will be affected.


What will the energy efficiency gains be?

The renovations will transform our headquarters into a net zero energy building that does not rely on fossil fuels. The project meets credentials of the LEED Platinum level and was designed to meet six out of seven elements of The Living Building Challenge.

How is the project sustainable?

We are renovating the existing, sustainably-built building and using FSC-certified wood and wood products, recycled materials, and sustainable products in the interior remodel. Our goal is to have a building that still functions efficiently in another 45 years.

Will the new building rely on power from the solar field?

The solar array adjacent to Cary’s headquarters involves a power purchase agreement with Bacon Triangle, LLC. The power we purchase meets the energy needs for our entire campus, including the amount of energy our main building uses today.

Will the building have solar panels, like the original 70’s design?

Rooftop solar is an option that we will keep open. Currently, the solar array in the Bacon Triangle meets 100% of our energy needs. Adding solar in the future would happen only if our energy needs exceed that generated by the existing array. 

Open House

Will you have an open house?

Absolutely, when we can! If the building is open before large groups can assemble we will do virtual visits until we can have a proper celebration. We want you to see it.