Desert complex is first LEED Platinum museum

First Museum to Gain Top Ranking from US Green Building Council

April 21, 2008 |

, CA—A Platinum LEED certification from the US Green Building Council (USGBC) has been awarded today to the Water + Life Museums, which comprise the Center for Water Education and the Western Center for Archeology and Paleontology, designed and constructed by Los Angeles-based Lehrer + Gangi Design + Build.

The complex is the first museum building to secure a Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating, the highest bestowed by the USGBC.  The award is doubly impressive, as the 70,000-square-foot museum complex met the most exacting green standards (including those regarding energy and water consumption), despite the harsh desert environment of Hemet, where triple-digit summer heat is the norm, but where water can freeze in winter.

“We are gratified to receive the Platinum rating, but even more proud that the Water + Life Museums will effectively conserve water and electricity for generations to come,” said Michael B. Lehrer, FAIA, principal.  “The museum’s exhibits are about local resources, so the building itself is ‘living’ example of sustainability and conservation.”

The $40-million Water + Life campus won critical acclaim for its structures and 17-acre campus, where indoor and outdoor spaces mix within a framework of airy floor plans and abundant natural light.  Additional awards for the twin desert museums include the Beyond Green High Performance Award from the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council; the AIA Pasadena/Foothill Design Honor Award; and two Gold Nugget awards (Best Sustainable Commercial Project Grand Award and Best Public/Private Use Facility Merit Award).

“The museums are topped by one of the largest solar-panel installations of its kind,” said Mark Gangi, AIA, principal, explaining the 540-watt, 3000-panel photovoltaic installation that provides the complex with nearly half of its total power needs.  The solar panels also shade the roof from desert sun, while special translucent panes provide dappled light to outdoor loggias.

Other green elements include translucent banners that hang across 8,000 square feet of deeply recessed, east-facing glass to both identify the museums as well as mitigate the desert sun.  Thanks to heat-blocking glass, the windows also let in abundant natural light, minimizing artificial lighting needs.  Interior lighting, when needed, is controlled by a network of electronic sensing devices and timers that optimize daylight harvesting.  Heating and cooling are conducted through a sophisticated mechanical system of radiant flooring and forced air units. 

Like proud sentinels, five 40-foot-high brushed-steel towers front each museum’s façade, standing tall against the azure desert skyline.  Monolithic, the towers evoke the minimalist sculpture of Donald Judd, while the repeating forms suggest the industrial triumphs of the museums’ prime benefactor, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.  The museums are surrounded by desert gardens featuring native and drought-tolerant plants that are sustained by state-of-the-art drip-irrigation systems that use reclaimed water.

“We are extremely proud of the people we assembled to build the Water + Life Museums, including the Lehrer + Gangi Design + Build team and numerous consultants, who worked diligently to bring the campus to reality despite numerous challenges,” said Lehrer.

Affiliated firms on the project: Mia Lehrer + Associates, Landscape Architect; KPFF Consulting Engineers, Civil Consultant; Vector Delta Design Group, Electrical Engineering; IBE Consulting Engineers, Mechanical Engineering; Zinner Consulting, LEED Program Management.  The Lehrer + Gangi Design + Build project team: Michael B. Lehrer, FAIA (principal); Mark Gangi, AIA (principal); Frank P. Gangi (principal/construction manager); Anne Marie Kaufman Perlov, AIA, LEED AP (project architect); Jonathan Dawang; Steve Deyer, AIA, LEED AP; Jovan Gayton, LEED AP; Monica Grau; Han Hsieh; Nerin Kadribegovic; Chris Mundweil, AIA, LEED AP; Yuri Osipov; Maria Rockstroh; and Robin Sakahara, AIA. 

Lehrer + Gangi Design + Build was created by Michael B. Lehrer, FAIA, Mark Gangi, AIA, and Frank Gangi, MBA, for the Water + Life Museums project.  The collaboration between the two architects and builder, forming a design/build alliance, was instrumental in bringing this project in on time and on budget and essential to achieving the LEED Platinum rating.  Lehrer + Gangi Design + Build was hands-on from initial conception, through design, building, and LEED commissioning.  Lehrer, principal of Los Angeles-based Lehrer Architects, is known for community-based work, such as the James M. Wood Community Center and Downtown Drop-In Center, both in Downtown LA.  Gangi has been principal of Burbank-based Gangi Architects since 1990, and has produced an array of urban projects.

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