Page E2.3. 17 September 2008                     
ArchitectureWeek - Environment Department
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    Desert Museums in Platinum


    Work in Progress

    Lehrer is quick to caution against expecting perfection, however. "We did not try to paint a rosy picture of what the systems could do. In fact, it is interesting to note that the commissioning process assumes that the systems won't work properly the first time, but that adjustments will be required."

    Giese agrees, noting that the challenge with the facility is that some design decisions are being worked out to this day. "Overall, I am satisfied and think the facility is aesthetically gorgeous, but the design of the HVAC system is complex and we're still figuring out operations of the building, the central plant, and the photovoltaics."

    The Western Museum has already installed supplemental window shades to alleviate the intense summer heat gain felt in the east-facing entry passageway and open exhibit space — areas utilizing displacement ventilation and partially edged by curtain wall.

    "Maintaining buildings like these is something that you must train the institution, not a single person, to do," notes Lehrer. "The protocol of the client must include maintenance staff as partners, and we, the design team, are still involved over a year after opening."

    Rosenthal sums it up best: "If we are to build smart buildings — and we should — there must be an investment in education on how to run these buildings. Operating a LEED Platinum-certified building without instructions is similar to buying a million-dollar sailboat, then trying to sail to New Zealand with no training. It doesn't work."

    At the end of the day, the building team views the LEED process in a positive light. Lehrer talks about how the LEED process nurtured and fostered a sustainable design process that was already created by a group of good, responsible designers. Giese cites the ability of LEED certification to draw visitors to a facility that can further educate them. Rosenthal sees the facility harvesting benefits in grant funding, prominence, and its place in history.

    Meanwhile, the experience of visiting the complex results in this delightful discovery: Platinum design feels a lot like good design.

    Leigh Christy is an architect and writer living in Los Angeles.

    Project Credits

    Architect: Lehrer + Gangi Design + Build
    Construction Manager: Lehrer + Gangi Design + Build
    Landscape Architect: Mia Lehrer + Associates
    Civil Engineer: KPFF Consulting Engineers
    Structural Engineer: Nabih Youssef & Associates
    Mechanical and Plumbing Engineer: IBE Consulting Engineers
    Electrical and Solar Engineer: Vector Delta Design Group, Inc.
    Soils Engineer: Geomatrix Consultants, Inc.
    LEED Consultant: Zinner Consultants
    Exhibit Designers: Design Craftsmen
    Owner Representative: Jerry King

    More information about the LEED credits earned by the Water + Life Museums is available in the project's LEED-NC Construction Application Review (PDF).

    Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...


    ArchWeek Image

    The Water + Life Museums comprise the Western Center for Archaeology and Paleontology and the Center for Water Education.
    Photo: Tom Lamb Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Geologic eras are marked on the loggia structure at the Western Center Museum.
    Photo: Benny Chan Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    At the Water + Life Museums, some 3,000 photovoltaic panels are capable of producing 540 kilowatts of electricity.
    Photo: Benny Chan Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Floor plan drawing.
    Image: Lehrer Architects Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Section drawing.
    Image: Lehrer Architects Extra Large Image

    ArchWeek Image

    Photo: Benny Chan Extra Large Image


    Click on thumbnail images
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