A Green Museum

More than 2,800 square metres of roof were seeded with prairie grasses and plants that are indigenous to Manitoba. (Photo: Aaron Cohen/CMHR)


Design for sustainability

Human rights and environmental responsibility are interconnected. By taking steps to protect the planet’s air, land, water and living things, we also support people’s rights, such as the right to live in health and safety, to earn a sustainable livelihood, and to maintain culture.

The Museum was planned with sustainability as a goal. This means minimizing its impact on the natural world and people’s health. The Museum is also dedicated to education and dialogue about environmental stewardship.

Green roofs, rainwater harvesting, natural lighting and a high-efficiency heating system are among the facility’s many green features. The Museum’s grounds are also Canada’s largest tract of revegetated native prairie in an urban downtown setting – creating a drought-tolerant ecosystem that saves on maintenance and irrigation.


A LEED® Silver building

Architects and engineers designed the Museum to meet the high standard required for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. LEED is an international green building certification program. It measures the green quality and performance of a building’s materials. It also evaluates the construction process, the sustainability of the site, and the way the building functions – for example, its air quality and energy efficiency.

In 2017, the Museum was officially certified as a LEED Silver building by the Canada Green Building Council. LEED recognizes building performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.


Green museum features

  • Three green roofs (2,800 square metres) and the Museums grounds (1.6 hectares) were seeded with 15 species of prairie grasses and plants such as Blue Grama, Prairie Junegrass, Buffalo Grass, Sideoats Grama, Little Bluestem and purple and white clover. They require no watering. Benefits of green roofs include improved air quality, bird habitat and building insulation.
  • The Museum harvests rainwater. An underground cistern stores roof run-off water for use in the air-conditioning system and toilets. Storm water is not released directly into the Red River, but accumulates in a cistern or overflow ponds.
  • Ultra-low-flow plumbing fixtures and waterless urinals in washrooms are designed to reduce water use by 30 per cent.
  • Natural light from the museum’s glass “cloud” reduces the need for artificial light.  Its window panes contain a layer of argon gas for insulation and feature a “frit” or dot pattern that reduces indoor solar heat and glare.
  • High-efficiency condensing boilers heat the building and recover energy from flue gasses that would ordinarily be wasted. The main air-handling unit uses a heat-recovery (enthalpy) wheel. This system extracts energy from the building’s exhaust air, using it to pre-heat incoming fresh air in winter or pre-cool it in summer.
  • The air-conditioning system uses chillers that are up to 15 per cent more efficient than standard models. No CFCs or HCFCs (ozone-depleting substances) are used in the cooling system. No ozone-depleting halons are used in fire-suppression equipment.
  • More than 15 percent of building materials (by cost) contained recycled content. Materials with recycled content included concrete, rebar, structural steel, drywall and furniture.
  • More than half of construction waste was recycled or salvaged.
  • All carpets, adhesives, sealants, paints and coatings chosen give off minimal volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Furniture in the Museum is GREENGUARD certified, meeting some of the world's most rigorous standards for low VOC emissions.
  • Air-quality sensors gauges when vents need to add fresh outdoor air by detecting carbon dioxide levels in the building and reduces energy waste from over-ventilation.
  • The Museum maintains a green housekeeping program that uses Green Seal-certified cleaning products. No corrosive or environmentally harmful products are used. Cleaning staff are trained in green housekeeping.
  • Sensors turn lights off when spaces are unoccupied.
  • The Museum has a comprehensive in-house program to recycle glass, cans, paper, cardboard and scrap metal and compost food waste. The onsite ERA Bistro has a composting (organic waste recycling) program for its commercial kitchen and banquet operations.
  • To encourage staff to be green commuters, the Museum provides a bicycle lockup, showers and change facilities for employees and volunteers who cycle to work. It also participates in a Winnipeg Transit program that provides subsidized bus passes for staff members.

Antoine Predock designed the building and PCL was the construction manager, with architecture carried out by Architecture 49. Scatliff + Miller + Murray were the landscape architects. Engineering services were provided by Halcrow Yooles/CH2M Hill (structural), The Mitchell Partnership (mechanical) and Mulvey & Banani (electrical).