Monday LEEDoff: First LEED-Certified Museum in New York- Adirondack Park’s Wild Center

The $30 million, HOK-designed Wild Center/Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks is the Empire State’s first LEED-certified museum.

Located deep Upstate in Adirondack Park, the Wild Center/Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks is the first museum in New York State to receive a LEED rating, earning Silver from USGBC last week. The $30 million facility opened back in July of 2006 and complements offerings at the 22-building Adirondack Museum, which is located 30 miles to the south in Blue Mountain Lake, New York and primarily presents exhibitions about the Adirondacks’ human history.

The 54,000-square-foot Wild Center, on the other hand, is designed to educate visitors about the Adirondacks’ natural landscape and includes a live river landscape with over 75 different local species. Executive Director Stephanie Ratcliffe stated that “[t]he Adirondacks are a great model for how people can live with the natural world, and it’s exciting to see the future of sustainable building breaking new ground in the Adirondacks.” The Wild Center is also the first LEED-certified building in Adirondack Park of any kind, which at 6 million acres is larger than the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

The project team, which was led by the New York City office of HOK, was able to minimize construction impact by placing the 31-acre project on the site of a former sand quarry that was donated by the Tupper Lake School District. A 3-acre pond (which you can see in the image above) accommodates both stormwater and exhibit water discharge, as well as attracts local wildlife. 10 percent of the museum’s electricity needs are met by a 40kW rooftop photovoltaic system, with the balance satisfied by hydroelectric power from nearby Niagra Falls.

HOK took advantage of site location to combine passive solar design with a tight building envelope. The museum’s architectural style reflects a local Adirondacks vernacular; indeed, all of its exterior pine siding was sourced from mills within 10 miles of Tupper Lake and other structural materials were also locally manufactured. Other features include daylighting, low-VOC materials and GreenSeal-certified finishes, air quality monitoring, composting toilets and electronically controlled building systems. By this coming summer, when the museum will offer a full-day event for industry professionals to observe its green features first-hand, the Wild Center also expects to have a number of exhibit labels that will adorn specific sustainable features in an effort to educate both visitors and staff. All told, those features should assist the museum in saving 20 to 30 percent over typical operating costs.

Owners and operators of educational and cultural facilities that implement sustainable construction practices have a vested interest in ensuring that their buildings actually perform at a high level. Moving forward, some of the best lessons that we’ll learn about sustainable design will likely stem from observational data that’s obtained by these two crucial sectors of the industry. Moreover, it will be interesting to compare the performance results from these sectors against those from others- such as high-rise residential- where greenwash concerns may be more significant.

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