Grand Rapids Has the First LEED Museum

Grand Rapids Art Museum LEED Gold

Grand Rapids, Michigan is one of the greenest cities in the country, at least if you go by the number of LEED certified buildings it has. And now it adds to its distinction with the first LEED Gold certified art museum in the country.

Grand Rapids is tied with Pittsburgh and Washington at #5 on a list of cities with the most LEED certified buildings, surpassing even cities such as Chicago, San Francisco, New York. Grand Rapids also has embraced renewable energy for the city. A strong regional commitment to green building and support from philanthropist Peter Wege (who serves on the board of the designerly office furniture manufacturer Steelcase as well as the Grand Rapids Art Museum’s board) has helped Grand Rapids But Grand Rapids’ latest claim to green fame is that it is now the home to the first new construction LEED-certified art museum in the country.

The building is a 125,000 sf structure designed by Kulapat Yantrasast of Workshop Hakomori Yantrasast (wHY Architects). The Grand Rapids Art Museum opened just a few weeks prior to David Adjaye’s Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, which is also expecting a LEED Gold.

Grand Rapids Art Museum - First LEED Gold Art Museum

Museums make for difficult LEED projects because they tend to have very demanding and precise requirements for temperature and humidity control, and extensive lighting requirements. The Grand Rapids Art Museum manages to accomplish these needs and is still expected to receive LEED Gold certification once all the review work is completed in the next few months.

A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor catalogs some of the green features this museum offers:

•The roof, painted white to reflect heat, collects rainwater and snowmelt and sends it down drains to collect in giant cisterns in the basement, where it is used for everything from washing dishes in the cafe to watering the lawn to replenishing the reflecting pool.

• The ultrasmooth, sandy-colored architectural concrete was made from local materials, and local and organic food is used as much as possible in the cafe.

• Museums need strict temperature and humidity controls to protect their holdings. The GRAM solved this by funneling outside air underground, where the temperature is a consistent 55 degrees F. Humidity and heat can be added before the air is pumped into the museum.

• Developers leveraged local weather: Because Grand Rapids has so many overcast days, museum director Celeste Adams explains, the museum was able to rely on natural lighting without worrying that intense sun would harm the works of art. (Filtered glass, louvers, and layering are also employed.)

The building is a work of art in itself, and doesn’t hold back in providing a wonderful building to house the art collection. That it can be both beautiful and green shows the way for others to follow for all kinds of buildings.

Grand Rapids Art Museum - interiors


Other Green Building Tour Reviews

Museums sprout ‘green’ architecture (Christian Science Monitor)

More pictures and links (and an earlier version of this article) at Grand Rapids Art Museum, First LEED Gold Museum at Jetson Green

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