Chartreuse Blog

Museum of Visual Materials: Teaching Green Design

The Museum of Visual Materials, in downtown Sioux Falls, was designed to accomplish three goals: create an interactive display for the owner’s collections; preserve the building’s original character; and incorporate green design principles to minimize operating costs and educate visitors about sustainability.

The owner’s collections are displayed using flexible display spaces around activity areas such as cooking, sewing, crafts, and music.  Simple display units were designed on castors for flexibility and the option to clear the large rooms for events.  The spaces were designed to maximize daylight for reading and viewing the collections.

The owner chose to use an abandoned building in the Sioux Falls Historic Warehouse District to house the collection.  Consolidated Tank Line Co. built the wood frame and rubble quartzite structure in 1887 after which it served as the Midwest headquarters for the Standard Oil Co. from 1896 until 1945.  Midland Distributing Company’s Seagram Products were distributed from the structure until the mid 80’s.  The building sat mostly empty for the next 20 years.

Koch Hazard Architects chose to gut the interior spaces leaving the original quartzite rubble walls and wood structure to preserve the buildings character.  Paint was sandblasted from the interior and exterior surfaces to reveal the warehouse’s original aesthetic.  Columns and webs milled from reused timbers were added to stabilize the trusses with custom gussets and bolts.  Many of the early alterations were retained as part of the building’s history.

Because the owner, a retired physician, had a lifetime focus on health, sustainable sensibility and stewardship was a guiding priority for designing the museum.  Sustainable design will lower ongoing operating costs and serve as a tool to educate others about healthy design.

The site and building incorporate many innovative and sustainable systems and technologies with the expectation of LEED Gold Certification from the USGBC.

All parking is off-site allowing native grasses and flowers to fill the exterior space.  Rainwater from the roof is collected and diverted to a small retention area.  A permeable serpentine path is used for learning about native plants through a self-guided tour.   Quartzite retaining walls provide exterior seating space in the plaza courtyard.

Low-flow fixtures and motion sensors save approximatly 30,000 gallons of water every year or about 30% over standard EPA efficiency.

A hybrid open loop geothermal system uses steady temperatures from the Sioux Aquifer for efficient heating and cooling.  Three inches of closed cell soy-based foam insulation where added to walls increase energy efficiency.  Energy efficient lighting with motion sensors and high efficiency glazing minimize heat gain, and an 8 kilowatt photovoltaic array on the roof generates energy.

Natural, regional materials were used including unstained wood trim from Minnesota and locally quarried quartzite.  35 freight skid palettes from the building’s Seagram distributor days were reused as a raised and removable floor in the utility room, as bases for the original rough columns in the atrium, as a backdrop to the kitchen, and as a trash enclosure off the alley.  Unstained bamboo and cork are also used in the display areas.

Low-emitting materials, operable windows, and daylighting and views were used to promote good indoor air quality.

Green cleaning and education programs further promote the building as a teacher of sustainable design and healthy buildings.

Photos by Stephen Parezo