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The Green Life: The American Indian Museum LEEDs in Green Design

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October 27, 2011

The American Indian Museum LEEDs in Green Design

Smithsonian's American Indian MuseumThe U.S. Green Building Council has awarded its prestigious LEED silver rating to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). Though it didn’t nab gold or platinum — the USGBC’s highest ratings — silver's nothing to sneer at.

Jane Sledge, the museum’s associate director, is proud of the achievement and quick to point out that hers is the first Smithsonian museum to get LEED certification. But just because the museum has been recognized for its environmental efforts, its staff won't rest on their laurels or think their work done. Said Sledge, “It’s an acknowledgement of achieving a step and being committed to going to the next step.”

The building, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., opened in 2004 and is one of three that make up the NMAI (the others are in New York and Maryland). To get the certification, the existing structure needed no significant changes, but certain policies did need to change; the recycling program got improved, for one.

LEED certification is a points-based system with four rating levels: Certified (40-49 points), Silver (50-59), Gold (60-79), and Platinum (80 and higher). The points are based on categories that include water efficiency, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

Does the museum have aspirations beyond silver? “You can bet your money on that,” said Kathleen Fleming, the museum’s building manager. “We’re going for gold.”

--Josh Marx / image courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian

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