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Nov. 18, 2011

Museum of Natural History of Utah Strives to LEED by Example

By Alex Girda, Associate Editor

One of Salt Lake City’s attractions-to-be is the brand-new Natural History Museum of Utah as it reopens in a brand-new, $103 million facility. The building’s catchy design is inspired by what the museum strives to present: the diverse landscape and particularities of Utah. The Rio Tinto Center, as it is currently called, was funded through a public-private partnership.

The modern venue will employ both traditional and multimedia techniques in its presentations while charging a surprisingly small entrance fee for a new and attractive location. According to AirlinesandDestinations.com, an adult visitor is required to pay a fee of $9. This places the Natural History Museum of Utah’s charging plan at a much cheaper level than other major museums across the United States. The structure will be as much an exhibit on the exterior as on the inside, as its 163,000 square feet of space will be covered in 42,000 square feet of copper.

The building that will house the museum’s more than 1.2 million specimens and objects was designed by a team comprising designer Todd Schliermann and Don Weinreich of Ennead Architects, as well as David Brems and John Branson from Gilles Stransky Brems Smith Architects. The design intends to encapsulate the feel of Utah’s specific landscape, with its location – above the shoreline of the ancient Lake Bonneville – being one of its most significant features. The building will be marked by a central public space that will stand 60 feet high, serving as the building’s focal point.

The structure is loaded with green features, striving to incorporate non-polluting materials and use as many environmentally friendly technologies as possible. The Rio Tinto Center uses recycled materials, local resources, photovoltaic energy, radiant cooling, as well as a complex system to capture and manage storm water. It is striving for LEED Gold certification, an award that would make it only the 18th building to receive the distinction in the entire state of Utah.