LEED Gold Utah Museum Draws Green Gawkers

It’s not just the dinosaur bones that are attracting visitors to the newly reopened Natural History Museum of Utah. Visitors are also interested in the bones of the building itself. Located in Salt Lake City at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, the museum opened in its new, green building this past November.

Museum staff are now offering daily architectural tours of the structure, which was designed to achieve LEED Gold certification, one of only 18 buildings in Salt Lake City to be awarded the distinction. The building’s green design elements include the use of recycled materials, local resources, photovoltaic energy, radiant cooling and an extensive storm water catchment and management system.

Natural History Museum of Utah

image via Natural History Museum of Utah

The building’s exterior was inspired by the landscape of Utah and blends seamlessly into its surroundings with the angles of the roof rising and falling with the slope of the mountains in the background. Copper panels make up the skin of the building and are situated in horizontal bands to replicate geological stratification. Todd Schliemann of Ennead Architects designed the new building, which cost $103 million.

Natural History Museum of Utah

image via Natural History Museum of Utah

Inside, the building is divided by a 60-foot-high central public space called “The Canyon.” One wing of the new museum contains research laboratories, conservation labs, collection storage and administration; the other wing houses public spaces with exhibitions and galleries in which to present, interpret and study the museum’s collection of artifacts and exhibits. The museum is an active research institution, located at the University of Utah, that features more than 1.2 million different specimens and objects.

Kristy Hessman is a writer and native Oregonian who currently resides in California. Before starting her own company, she worked as a reporter covering business and politics for daily newspapers and The Associated Press.