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Durham County Human Services Complex

The Durham County Human Services Complex in Durham, NC is designed as a courtyard building using Terracotta Rainscreen Facades to give the building an urban presence while the internalized courtyard is a hidden gem within the urban setting.


The Durham County Human Services Complex houses the Departments of Public Health and Social Services as well as the administrative offices for Mental Health and some county wide facilities. The new facility is designed as a courtyard building. The facades all front their respective streets to give the building an urban presence, while the internalized courtyard becomes a “gem” within the urban setting. The building has been designed with the main circulation facing the inner courtyard to provide an abundance of natural light and air to both the employees and visitors.

Argeton Terracotta Rainscreen Case Study

The most visited programs will be located along the lower two floors while the majority of the administrative departments are on the upper levels. In addition to the main lobbies, there will be several informal access points at appropriate locations for employees, special clients, and county wide facilities. Because the new Durham County Human Services building will sit on the site of the current Public Health Building, the phasing of the project is crucial.

Building Phases

The building was constructed in two phases: The first along Queen Street, allowing the existing Public Health employees to move into their new facility before the old building is razed. Once the existing building is demolished, the portion along Dillard Street and Main Street would be constructed as well as the interior courtyard.


Terracotta Rainscreen Facade System Case Study in Durham, NC

The building massing intentionally fills the full block, bringing the 3-4 story structure to all four edges of its urban site. The “O” shaped plan configuration allows for a generous public courtyard at the center of the complex. The plan configuration also creates a perimeter intensive solution which allows for generous day-lighting and exterior views from the building. The building design addresses its historical context by drawing from the rich heritage of the tobacco industry of downtown Durham. These historic structures are characterized by red brick and open courtyards. The use of red terracotta as the primary building material and the building layout represent a contemporary interpretation of these elements in our new building. The design of the program around a central courtyard is conceptually seen as a “unification” of county-wide services into a singular caring and healing environment. This unification is executed architecturally by a simple gesture of “wrapping” all the program components of the project with a single building material, terracotta.


Sustainability principles also drive the design of the project. At one level, the project speaks to environmental responsibility through its LEED Gold Certification. On another level, sustainability can be interpreted through a facility which promotes self-preservation of the human condition. The majority of clients who seek the help and comfort of human services are looking for a means by which to care and sustain themselves. The building speaks to this profound need through its commitment to provide the highest quality interior and exterior environments.

Facade System

A rainscreen back ventilated system was selected to provide solid and dependable thermal performance as well as water and moisture management with the wall façade.

The Argeton terracotta rainscreen system was installed on the project. Telling Architectural, the North American distributor for the Argeton system worked closely with The Freelon Group in the design of the system. Telling met regularly with Freelon to discuss tile set outs, substructure, and even provided input on material selection for the wall assembly.


Todd Case - Project Architect, The Freelon Group

“The support we received from Telling has been very good throughout the project. We are particularly happy with the way the Telling technical people worked closely with the installer. The results have been very good so far.”

From bid stage through completion Telling’s technical services personnel worked closely with Advanced Exterior Systems, the installer on the project. Telling met with technical personnel form AES throughout the phases in an effort to aid in the success of the project from cradle to grave. Telling also sent a Field Technical Manager to the site to provide oversight and guidance for the AES crews.


David Wheeler – COO, Advanced Exterior Systems

“AES is very pleased with the quality and support given by the Telling group and Argeton as the manufacturer. The unique project conditions required a partner that could lead us through completion. Telling offered a professionalism and reliability which helped us deliver a quality product on time to our Client. This result expands the possibilities of owner/ architects to design their buildings incorporating specialty products with confidence.”


Argeton Rainscreen Facade Completed Project in Durham NC

Argeton terracotta rainscreen system is the original terracotta rainscreen in the world. Developed in Germany more than two decades ago Telling has been installed over 3,000 projects worldwide. The Telling organization is based in New York and headquartered in the UK. Telling has been an Argeton distributor for over twenty years and supplies technical support to the design team and installer base.


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