This article, originally titled "DC’s Museum Of African American History Is The City’s Greenest," was originally published on Lance Hosey's Huffington Post blog. It is part of a four-part series about the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Fifteen years ago, when I worked on the design of a high-performance museum, the concept was considered so unusual that the media questioned the very idea. The US Green Building Council (USGBC) had only very recently introduced its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, so much of the public wasn’t familiar with the concept. Over the following decade, it became more and more popular in every building type, including museums. A watershed year was 2008. The Water + Life Museums in Hemet, CA, became the first LEED Platinum museum, quickly followed by the California Academy of Science, which has been called “the world’s greenest museum.” The same year, the Grand Rapids Art Museum became the first LEED-certified art museum. By 2016, International Museum Day could highlight ten LEED-certified museums in the US alone.
Now the Smithsonian has completed its first LEED Gold project, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). (The Silver-rated National Museum of the American Indian [NMAI] was the first Smithsonian project to become a certified green building, although it wasn’t designed to this standard and didn’t achieve it until seven years after opening in 2004.) By many measures, the NMAAHC is easily the greenest museum in Washington.