The Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center is the first museum in Pennsylvania to achieve LEED Gold certification. Opened in 2008 and operated by the Gettysburg Foundation, the museum houses one of the nation’s largest collections of Civil War memorabilia, including the Gettysburg Cyclorama, America’s largest painting.

The building’s sustainable features were designed to respond to the historic landscape of the military park, where 50,000 troops perished in the Civil War’s deadliest battle. “This facility needed to reinforce the sense of place already associated with the Gettysburg Battlefield grounds,” saya project architect Robert A. Kinsley, II, of LSC Design in York, Pa. “The building needed to blend into the landscape so that it felt like something that had been there all along.”

The 139,000-sq.-ft. visitor center—which includes housing gallery space, two 180-seat theaters, a cafeteria and gift shop, storage space, and staff offices—draws considerable energy, much of which comes from renewable sources. The geothermal heating and cooling system includes 207 wells drilled to an average depth of 550 feet. The museum supplements this on-site energy source with green energy credits.

Three-quarters of the building’s construction waste was diverted from landfills via metal, cardboard, and wood recycling programs. Among the local materials used are granite pavers, flooring, and countertops from a nearby quarry and exterior wood timbers repurposed from a 100-year-old barn. In all, 20 percent  of the materials used were manufactured locally and 50 percent were harvested locally.

The museum program required attention to climate control and indoor air quality. The large Cyclorama gallery walls are fitted with insulated metal wall panels, typically found in cold storage warehouses, which help maintain constant temperature and humidity. Low-emitting interior finishes—including flooring, adhesives and sealants, and paints and coatings—were selected to reduce off-gassing and VOCs.

Outside, the building’s site design lightens its impact on the landscape. During construction, endangered grasses on the site were harvested and transplanted elsewhere. A natural stream channel and wetland have been restored, helping to bring the site back to its original form. Underground cisterns store excess stormwater, reducing run-off into the sensitive Potomac River watershed, and reflective cool roof materials help diminish the heat island effect.