House: Poor location taints new museum’s message

By and

Next week the U will break ground for the new Utah Museum of Natural History. The design is generally positive and a landmark for sustainable construction. Unfortunately, poor administrative decisions have tarnished the overall goal of the new museum.

The building will be one of few in the state to be awarded gold-level LEED certification-a rating system based on awarding project design points in six categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, material and resources, indoor environmental quality and innovation.

The building will be powered partly by wind energy and will be fitted for a rooftop solar array, which is set to be installed after more money is raised. It will also include eco-friendly features such as low-emission lighting, high-performance heating and cooling systems and will use many recycled materials. The museum also plans to reintroduce local plants and insects after construction is complete.

Although all of these plans are admirable, the same value for sustainability wasn’t considered when administrators decided to build on the foothills above Research Park.

The site, right in the middle of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, has rerouted the trail during construction. Even after construction is complete, the trail will run between the new building and the parking lot. To place such a large building on top of a popular trail isn’t consistent with the otherwise environmentally friendly design. Yet, administrators pursued the plan despite public outcry.

Aside from the location, the roof of the museum will be coated in 42,000 feet of copper donated by Rio Tinto, the parent company of Kennecott Copper. Covering the roof with copper mined from a 42,000-foot hole in the ground also seems counter-intuitive to an otherwise eco-friendly message.

It’s too late to go back-plans for the building have been finalized and construction should be completed in 2011. However, the ill-conceived location choice has left a bad taste in the mouths of many community members, and the bad sentiment will linger. Hopefully, the experience will encourage administrators to heed public opinion when considering locations for future building projects.

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