New museum supports sustainability

By By Ryan Shelton

By Ryan Shelton

Just one month after U President Michael Young joined over 500 of his peers by signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, the U unveiled plans for its most ambitious “green” building to date.
Dubbed the Rio Tinto Center, the new home for the Utah Museum of Natural History will join a short list of buildings in the state to receive a gold-level LEED certification.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a third party green building rating system that distinguishes environmentally-friendly buildings by awarding project design points in six rigorous categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, material and resources, indoor environmental quality and innovation.
The Spencer F. & Cleone P. Eccles Health Sciences Education Building is the only other site on campus to receive LEED certification to date.
“As a natural science museum, we have a great responsibility to teach people how we can use our resources more responsibly,” said Sarah George, UMNH executive director.
Architect David Brems is excited about the extensive indoor climate control system that will allow for humidity adjustment in the new building.
“There’s a lot of artifacts and traveling shows from the east coast that can’t come here now because of the difference in humidity,” Brems said. “People don’t realize what they’re missing out on…the new facility will be very attractive to other museums with traveling collections.”
The building, which will be powered in part by wind energy, will be constructed largely out of recycled material, local copper and steel. George said the building will also be pre-fitted for a rooftop solar array, which will be installed at a later date after additional money is raised.
Other “green” features include underground tanks that will store run-off water and slowly release it into the site’s aquifer, low emission lighting, high-performance heating and cooling systems and the reintroduction of local plants and insects after construction is complete.
“This building will be a learning experience unto itself,” Brems said, “It’s going to raise the bar for all museums.”
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