- Project Name
- The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Art Museum
- Westlake Reed Leskosky
- Project Types
- Project Scope
- Shared by
- Certifications & Designations
- LEED Silver
- Project Status
Preserving an old building is a sustainable act in itself. Retrofitting a 150-year-old historic landmark to be a top energy performer? That’s truly impressive. And it’s just what Cleveland-based Westlake Reed Leskosky (WRL), now part of Omaha, Neb.–based DLR Group, did with the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, a delectable French pastry of a building designed in the ornate Second Empire style by James Renwick Jr. and completed in 1859 as the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
Last renovated between 1967 and 1972, the 46,800-square-foot building—located not on the National Mall but, incongruously, on Pennsylvania Avenue, backing up against the New Executive Office Building—was plagued by difficulties with its mechanical systems and an equally antiquated public image when engineer Roger Chang, a principal at DLR Group | WRL, first visited in 2009. “As soon as I walked in, I thought, ‘This is incredible,’ ” he says. Marveling at the 40-foot-high vaulted ceilings of the grand salon, he asked himself why he had never before set foot in the museum. And he couldn’t help thinking: “Wouldn’t it be fantastic to one day work on this building?” That day came just a few years later. In 2012, after the Smithsonian issued an RFP for its renovation, Chang headed the team that won and, in 2015, completed the job.
The brief was to overhaul the building’s obsolete systems and to improve the visitor experience. Rather than take advantage of potential exemptions granted to historic structures on certain performance standards, Chang was determined to bring the building fully up to date in all respects. The results have dramatically improved the museum’s energy efficiency while accommodating a spike in attendance from 175,000 annual visitors in 2012 to 800,000 annual visitors since the museum’s reopening in 2015. .
Behind the scenes, the reported energy use intensity (EUI) of 97 kBtus per square foot over the building’s first 12 months of continuous operation after the renovation represents a49 percent reduction against the last full-year of pre-renovation data from 2012. As the COTE jury said, “The Renwick Gallery renovation wove complex and robust new systems while preserving the impressive historic design and collection and allowing opportunities for new works to be displayed. All of this was done within a very restrained site, budget, and schedule.”
The museum’s new, all-LED lighting system is partly responsible for the improvement in energy efficiency. Chang explains, “The rooms have tall ceilings, but they are relatively narrow. So you have to illuminate an object from far away with a focused beam of light.” There were no suitable LED products available in 2013, so DLR Group | WRL joined the museum’s lighting designer, Scott Rosenfeld, in working with manufacturers to develop new lighting products, such as a four-degree LED spotlight that doesn’t overheat when a plastic lens is placed in front of it. Now the museum uses only one watt of power per square foot, instead of five watts per square foot for typical incandescent systems. The jury appreciated this innovation as well as the fact that the renovation “provides daylight to 90 percent of the museum staff.”
Cooler lights, in turn, reduced the demand for cooled air, Chang says, allowing for an uncommonly thrifty HVAC system. The architects’ integrated M/E/P engineering team replaced the old air-handling equipment, which was difficult to access and challenging to maintain, with three modern units in the attic and basement, coupled with approximately 30 networked variable air volume boxes. These units are stacked in mechanical rooms to ease maintenance and eliminate hydronic piping—potential leak hazards—over gallery spaces. Since the building has virtually no ceiling plenums, all the ductwork runs vertically through a series of hidden cavities, Chang says. “It was an incredible puzzle to work with.” DLR Group | WRL thus managed not to follow the recommendations of a 2010 feasibility study that had proposed raising the building’s ceiling and lowering the basement slab to accommodate mechanical equipment. “It sounded expensive and not likely to be approved,” Chang says. Humidity must be kept below 50 percent to avoid potential damage to the museum’s artworks, compared to upwards of 60 percent in a typical office building, Chang explains. The air conditioning system wrings moisture from the air. “But instead of throwing away the condensate, a typically wasted byproduct, we recycle it by sending it to the cooling tower,” Chang says. This cooling-coil condensate reclamation system saves about 100,000 gallons of potable water a year, equivalent to about two-thirds of the water used for the building’s interior plumbing fixtures.
Visitors won’t notice the new mechanical systems, and that’s okay. Though Chang says he’s proud of his team’s invisible engineering accomplishments, he wants visitors to experience the pure excitement he felt when he first saw the space. “We want people to fall in love with the building,” he says.
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Project: The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
Client: Smithsonian Institution
Architect: DLR Group | Westlake Reed Leskosky, Washington, D.C. . Amy Dibner, AIA, Scott Cryer, AIA, Allan Duber, AIA, Monica Green, FAIA, Raymond Kent, Assoc. AIA Interior Designer: DLR Group . Fonda Hosta
Mechanical Engineer: DLR Group . Roger Chang
Structural Engineer: Woods Peacock Engineering Consultants
Electrical Engineer: Arlene Parker
Civil Engineer: Wiles Mensch Corp.
General Contractor: Consigli
Fire Protection, Life Safety, Security Consultant: GHD; Protection Engineering Group
Size: 46,800 square feet
Cost: $20 million
Materials and Sources
Building Management Systems and Services: Siemens
Carpet: Bloomsburg; Milliken; Armstrong
Concrete: Say-Core (precast flooring)
Fabrics/Finishes: Crown (window shade)
Flooring: Daltile (ceramic); Vermont Quarries (marble); Armstrong (VCT)
Glass: Cardinal IG
Gypsum: Gold Bond
HVAC: Ventrol (AHU); Evapco (cooling tower); Armstrong (pumps); Enviro-Tec (VAV boxes); Nortec (humidifier); Laars (boiler)
Insulation: Sopra (roof); Proseal (wall)
Lighting Control Systems: WattStopper; Barco Medialon
Lighting: LiteLab; Solais; Lithonia Lighting, an Acuity Brands Co.
Masonry/Stone: Conproco (mortar); Watsontown (brick)
Metal: Reynobond (composite wall panels)
Millwork: CDD Architectural Millwork
Paints/Finishes: Benjamin Moore
Plumbing/Water System: American Standard; Sloan Valve Co.
Roofing: Soprema; North Country Slate
Wayfinding: SMI Sign Systems
Windows/Curtainwalls/Doors: St. Cloud (historic replica windows); Ellison (balanced doors)
From April 2018:
This project is a winner in the 2018 COTE Top Ten Green Projects Awards.
From the AIA:
The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum was the first purpose-built art museum in the country, built in 1859 to the design of architect James Renwick, Jr. and was last renovated between 1967 and 1972. The 21st century renovation replaced and improved major building infrastructure, enhanced historic features, and improved flexibility for exhibits. The project included restoration of two long-concealed vaulted ceilings; re-creation of the original 19th-century window configuration; replacement of all building systems; and improvements for accessibility. The project achieved a 50 percent reduction in annual energy use, while welcoming more than 500,000 visitors and 180 million social media impressions in its first six months.
Percentage of project floor area, if any, that represents adapting existing buildings: 100
Anticipated number of days the project can maintain function without utility power: 2 (The building has an emergency generator that can supply code required emergency egress lighting, in the event of a power outage. The emergency generator is not intended for full building operation, but does improve overall building resiliency, when considered in conjunction with high thermal mass construction and high resistance fenestration.)
Predicted consumed energy use intensity (EUI): 92 kBtu/sq ft/yr
Predicted Net EUI: 92 kBtu/sq ft/yr
Predicted Net carbon emissions: 16.1 lb/sq ft/yr
Predicted reduction from national average EUI for building type: 54 percent
Predicted lighting power density: 1 W/sq ft
Cost per square foot: $427
Comparable cost per square foot for other, similar buildings in the region: $772/sf per survey of 137 museums by American Alliance of Museums (2003-2010)
Estimated annual operating cost reduction (identify baseline): 26 percent from baseline energy code, excluding credit for gallery LED lighting use. When including credit for gallery LED lighting use, versus a traditional halogen based solution, a 40 percent energy cost savings from the baseline energy code is achieved.
Life Cycle Analysis of the costs associated with measures taken to improve performance (e.g. energy cost payback, water savings, measured productivity gains): Life cycle analysis of LED lighting was evaluated, with a focus on fixture life compared to initial cost. There are significant maintenance savings from use of LED sources, due much less frequent relamping requirements. At the Renwick, lamp changes generally require use of a lift, which is labor intensive and can create collection damage risk.
From the Architects:
Design Achievement - As the first purpose-built art museum in America and a principal structure in the Smithsonian Institution portfolio, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum holds significant value for American history. The Renwick Gallery, situated across from the White House, was built in 1859 to the design of architect James Renwick, Jr. and was last renovated in 1967-1972. DLR Group's major renovation of The Renwick Gallery preserves and respects the historic character of the National Historic Landmark building, while modernizing infrastructure and systems with state-of-the-art sustainable and energy-efficient technologies. Rather than relying on rote historic preservation, the design employs an artful interpretation balancing heavy infrastructure improvements with a light architectural touch, to ensure the building continues to be an asset for our nation for years to come. The design takes advantage of already-modified interior core light wells and attic space to accommodate new infrastructure; thus, avoiding impact to historic spaces. Once considered a hidden gem, the Gallery has become a true destination for art lovers and visitors across all demographics who are passionate about its exhibitions, its history, and its national importance.
Scope Summary - The renovation of this 51,386 SF historic structure replaced and improved major building infrastructure, enhanced historic features, and improved interior conditions. The project included: restoration of two long-concealed vaulted ceilings; re-creation of the original 19th-century window configuration; replacement of all HVAC, electrical, plumbing, fire-suppression, and life safety systems; upgrades to art-storage areas and restrooms, as well as to security, phone, and data communication systems; repairs to the roof, roof drainage system, and exterior façade; and improvements to visitor entrance accessibility. The basement was reconfigured for improved staff offices and workshops, providing an entrance with well-defined separation from non-public staff areas and mechanical spaces. The building is one of the first museums in the U.S. to use an all-LED solution for gallery lighting. The significant use of LED illumination and exhibit lighting enhances energy efficiency, while preserving the level of controlled lighting necessary in a museum environment. The project was designed for energy performance approximately 30 percent better than ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2007 and is pending LEED NC Silver certification. DLR Group provided architecture, integrated MEP engineering, sustainable design, interior design, lighting, technology, and historic preservation consulting services.