The San Jacinto Valley In California has an extensive history of water. More than 50,000 years ago, wooly mammoths and mastodons lived off the water between two area mountain ranges. In the 1990s, the same spot became the Diamond Valley Lake Reservoir, the largest earthworks project in U.S. history. The reservoir’s excavation uncovered astonishing Pleistocene-era fossils. A desire to preserve, study and exhibit the fossils evolved into the concept for The Western Center for Archaeology and Paleontology. At the same time, the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California saw an opportunity for the Hemet site to educate the public about water, giving rise to the Center for Water Education. The two museums, which were built sustainably, now educate visitors about the connection between water and life, as well as green-building practices.

  • Credit: Benny Chan

  • Credit: Michael B. Lehrer

  • Credit: Benny Chan

“It’s the whole system that ultimately defines what your building footprint is.” — Michael B. Lehrer, Lehrer + Gangi / Design + Build

  • Credit: Benny Chan

RAINMAKERS

Two separate organizations led the efforts for each museum, but one newly formed design-build company created the project on a single 23-acre (9-hectare) campus. Design principals of their individual firms, Michael B. Lehrer, FAIA, and Mark Gangi, AIA, joined with contractor Frank Gangi to pursue the project as Lehrer + Gangi / Design + Build.

  • Credit: MICHAEL B. LEHRER

Although neither architect had designed a museum before, Lehrer says the team shared a collective vision and really helped move the projects forward. “There was an unusual coalescence of interest and talent. We always had a complete vision for the place where the architecture and landscape were inseparable,” he explains.

A sustainable approach was a natural outgrowth of the team’s integrated vision for the buildings and site, but it took some time to convince the clients to consider certification under LEED, a program of the U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, D.C. After an analysis revealed that energy-efficient systems would produce a significant reduction in maintenance and operations costs, the two centers agreed to pursue a minimum LEED Certified status.

As the design progressed, however, it became apparent that the museum buildings easily could achieve a LEED Silver rating and should push for Gold. When construction was complete, it became apparent that LEED Platinum was within reach. The project currently is under review by USGBC.

FORMS AND LIGHT

The team refers to the project as “Water + Life,” emphasizing that without water, life cannot exist. The design uses the power of the repeating form in an abstract way to convey the notions of industry and timelessness. Each museum is a series of five slender steel towers. Together, these primal geometric shapes “march” across the landscape and evoke Diamond Valley Lake’s 10 pump-house turbines. Reflective silver materials create vivid, high-contrast structures that cut through the haze of the desert landscape, and a tremendous use of glass and voids articulate the architectural forms with light and space.

  • Credit: BENNY CHAN

A signature feature of the project is the latticed steel arcades, or loggias, that line the main piazza space. The loggias’ roofs are translucent glass solar panels with 6- by 6-inch (152- by 152-mm) silicon wafers that bring dappled light into the space below. Solar panels were placed on virtually every roof surface to create a 540-kilowatt photovoltaic installation that generates 68 percent of the energy for the museums’ operations. Visitors can see the solar system from the loggias and learn about the panels’ energy production at an exhibit inside the museum that monitors the key parameters of the system in real time.

The designers wanted transparency in the building to connect visitors to nature and offer the play of light throughout the day. The buildings’ main east-facing elevations feature 8,200 square feet (762 m2) of highly insulated glass.

“All that east-facing glass gets grueling morning light,” Lehrer points out. “It’s good to be an architect at the beginning of the 21st century because glass technology is extraordinary. The glass we chose is effective in minimizing heat gain and is really clear.”

To further reduce heat gain, the team developed perforated mega-banners on the façades that allow light through but shade the building. The banners stop 8 feet (2.4 m) above the ground to give visitors a clear view out. Pixilated graphics on the enormous banners—tusks for the archeology museum and a view of Diamond Valley Lake for the water center—identify the museums from across the valley. “

Through design exercises, the team created bioclimatic responses that solved a lot of problems simultaneously,” says Mark Gangi. “The banners give the public facilities a presence and make them very inviting. They’re visible, beautiful and educational.”

DEFLECTING HEAT

  • All the insulation is on the building’s exterior. The towers have an insulated metal panel wall system and main structures are comprised of exterior insulation and finish systems.

    Credit: TOM LAMB

    All the insulation is on the building’s exterior. The towers have an insulated metal panel wall system and main structures are comprised of exterior insulation and finish systems.

All the insulation is on the building’s exterior. The towers have an insulated metal panel wall system and main structures are comprised of exterior insulation and finish systems. A reflective, white roof has the added benefit of shade from the slightly elevated solar panels that cover it.

The originally planned roof-mounted packaged airconditioning units didn’t achieve the desired energy efficiency levels, so the team designed a special hybrid system. An insulated radiant floor uses cool and hot water combined with a concrete slab and a displacement ventilation system to control indoor temperatures. A chiller and boiler provide water to the system. When it’s hot, the radiant floor cools the slab, which reduces the amount of pumped air needed in the building and increases efficiency. The system lowered the energy use so much that the energy-recovery units on the air handlers are only required to warm the building in the morning.

The buildings constantly are monitored by the maintenance team using a network of sensors and timers for occupancy of exhibits and offices. All the energy-efficiency measures make the building 40 percent more efficient than Title 24, and the project should achieve all 10 energy points available in LEED.

  • Each museum is a series of five slender steel towers. Together, these primal geometric shapes “march” across the landscape and evoke Diamond Valley Lake’s 10 pump-house turbines.

    Credit: TOM LAMB

    Each museum is a series of five slender steel towers. Together, these primal geometric shapes “march” across the landscape and evoke Diamond Valley Lake’s 10 pump-house turbines.
 

“One of the profound things about LEED is that before you begin you think this feature or that efficient piece of equipment will make your building better, but that’s not the case,” Lehrer explains. “It’s the whole system that ultimately defines what your building footprint is.” Funding incentives came from a 50 percent rebate from the gas company for the solar installation. The team also received funding from the Savings by Design program sponsored by Southern California Edison, Rosemead. The project qualified by submitting all calculations and metrics demonstrating its energy efficiency and the degree to which it surpassed Title 24.

WATER STEWARDSHIP

Dual-flush toilets, movement-activated faucets and waterless urinals conserve water in the two museums. Outside, state-of-the-art low-flow irrigation systems that use nonpotable recycled water maintain native and drought-tolerant plant landscaping. Other than trees that will provide a parking-area canopy and reduce the heat-island effect, much of the landscape is reclaimed rocks from the dam’s construction. The bold, dramatic site melds into the adjacent landscape while minimizing the use of water.

  • Credit: BENNY CHAN

Watershed design and storm-water management systems have become a unique landscaping feature. The drainage systems appear as braids across the site. The stream beds are made from red-rock waste from Colorado mines. Braided streams form when rains come, and the patterns remain when it’s dry. The remaining water is deposited in an adjacent field that serves as a winter wetland.

CREATING FLOW

Airy floor plans and extensive window walls create an expansive indoor setting that connects museum visitors to the outside world. Drawing upon a modern aesthetic, interior finishes are basic but beautiful. Sanding and color staining produce a stone-like appearance from the poured-in-place concrete floor. In the few carpeted areas, the team selected thin carpeting to minimize interference with the buildings’ radiant-floor system. Low-VOC materials and glues protect IAQ.

The first phase of construction included the two separate museums and a shared café and gift shop. Construction was completed in October 2006 and commissioning occurred during 2007. Although the team will add auditoriums and a conference center to the complex, the museum campus already is a site from which to learn.

Gangi explains: “We were hired to create an envelope to put the organizations’ stuff in, but we started talking to them about making the envelope educational, as well. There is so much interconnectedness between sustainability and water usage, we convinced the clients they could teach wise water usage with their own facility. This was really us saying this is important.”

 KJ Fields writes about Architecture and sustainability from Portland, Ore. Christina Koch is editor in chief of eco-structure.

MATERIALS AND SOURCES

METAL/GLASS CURTAINWALL / ELWARD CONSTRUCTION CO., Tempe, Ariz.,
www.elward.com, and KAWNEER, Norcross, Ga., www.kawneer.com
CAST-IN-PLACE ARCHITECTURAL CONCRETE AND CONCRETE FLOORING /
CONCO COS., Concord, Calif., www.theconcocompanies.com
BUILT-UP BITUMINOUS ROOFING / JOHNS MANVILLE ROOFING SYSTEMS GROUPS,
Denver, www.jm.com
ALUMINUM WINDOWS / KAWNEER
GLASS / VIRACON, Owatonna, Minn., www.viracon.com
ENTRANCE DOORS / KAWNEER
WOOD DOORS / MARSHFIELD DOORSYSTEMS INC., Marshfield, Wis., www.marshfielddoors.com
SLIDING DOORS / DOR-O-MATIC, Indianapolis, exits.doromatic.com
ACOUSTICAL CEILINGS / ARMSTRONG, Lancaster, Pa., www.armstrong.com
CABINETWORK AND CUSTOM WOODWORK / ISEC INC., Englewood, Colo., www.isecinc.com
PAINTS AND COATINGS / PITTSBURGH PAINTS, Pittsburgh, www.pittsburghpaints.com,
and TNEMEC CO. INC., Kansas City, Mo., www.tnemec.com
BAMBOO PANELING AND FLOORING / SMITH & FONG PLYBOO, San Francisco, www.plyboo.com
RESILIENT FLOORING / NORA SYSTEMS INC., Lawrence, Mass., www.norarubber.com,
and FORBO, Hazleton, Pa., www.forbo-flooring.com
CARPET / SHAW CONTRACT, Calhoun, Ga., www.shawcontractgroup.com
ELEVATORS / OTIS GEN 2, Farmington, Conn., www.otisgen2.com

GREEN TEAM

ARCHITECT OF RECORD / SMITHGROUP, San Francisco, www.smithgroup.com
STRUCTURAL/CIVIL ENGINEER / RUTHERFORD & CHEKENE, San Francisco, www.ruthchek.com MECHANICAL/ELECTRICAL/PLUMBING ENGINEER / GAYNER ENGINEERS, San Francisco, www.gaynerengineers.com LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE / PETER WALKER AND PARTNERS , Berkeley, Calif., www.pwpla.com
GENERAL CONTRACTOR/CONSTRUCTION MANAGER / RUDOLPH & SLETTEN, Redwood City, Calif., www.rsconst.com COMMISSIONING AGENT / CH2M HILL, Portland, Ore., www.ch2m.com