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Burchfield Penney Art Center Receives Silver LEED Certification

Posted: May 18, 2009
The Burchfield Penney Art Center at Buffalo State College is the first art museum to earn the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Program Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

Designed by Gwathmey Siegel and Associates Architects, the $33 million art center also participates in the New York Energy Smart New Construction Program, meeting New York State standards to reduce energy usage and consumption.

“Building operations are nearly 40 percent of the solution to the global climate change challenge,” said Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC's president, CEO and founding chair. “Buildings like the Burchfield Penney Art Center are addressing it through local solutions.”

Given Charles E. Burchfield’s commitment to the environment and celebration of nature in his famed watercolors, LEED certification is especially appropriate for the museum. “Originally, we hadn’t even thought about the connection to Burchfield as a pioneering naturalist, but had set out to build this state-of-the-art facility to be sustainable,” said Ted Pietrzak, director of the Burchfield Penney. “It was only later that we realized the synergy with Burchfield’s life and work.”  

Achieving LEED Certification
Achieving rigorous LEED Silver status presented special challenges for the Burchfield Penney, which is located in Western New York State with its cold winters and hot summers. Brightworks Sustainability Advisors, a firm based in Portland, Oregon, helped the team establish goals to reach the Silver level certification.

To receive LEED certification, a building must earn at least 26 points in the areas of sustainable site selection, water use and efficiency, reduced energy use and atmospheric impact, green materials and resources, improved indoor air quality, and other green design processes. To achieve Silver certification, the Burchfield Penney met 33 points of environmental standards. “When we were building the facility, we felt a sense of responsibility to make that extra jump,” said Pietrzak. “We decided to go beyond the expected.”

These design elements include using 25 percent recycled material, Forest Stewardship Council certified wood, and approximately 20 percent of construction products from a 500-mile radius. Using natural light in most public spaces, motion-activated light switches in office space and energy-efficient HVAC systems anticipate energy savings of over 20 percent compared to a code compliant art museum.

The Burchfield Penney conserves resources by reducing water usage up to 40 percent with water-saving plumbing and fixtures in restrooms, no potable water irrigation system, and storm water quantity control to reduce erosion from construction activities. The museum also encourages alternative transportation by furnishing bicycle racks and power receptacles for electric vehicles.  The museum did not add new parking, but is positioned within 1/4 mile of multiple bus lines.

Finally, the Burchfield Penney includes many features for increased occupant comfort, such as access to fresh air, interior thermal conditions maintained within best practice levels and efforts to keep restoration chemical fumes away from museum employees and visitors.
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