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. If we 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.


Commitment to green goals

The Museum is committed to respecting and protecting the environment. The building was planned with sustainability as a goal. This means minimizing the Museum’s impact on the natural world and people’s health, during the construction phase and as the building operates for years to come. The Museum is also dedicated to education and dialogue about environmental stewardship.


Striving for Silver designation

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. The Museum is aiming to achieve Silver LEED certification from 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
  • Indoor environmental quality


Green building features

Sustainable site development

  • More than 50 percent of construction waste was recycled or salvaged.
  • The Museum features three green roofs. More than 2,800 square metres of roof were seeded with prairie grasses and plants that are indigenous to Manitoba, such as buffalograss and purple prairie clover. These perennials don’t need watering or fertilizer. Green roofs have many benefits, such as improving outdoor air quality, providing habitat for birds, and insulating the building from heat and cold.
  • The building’s grounds are landscaped to create a drought-tolerant prairie ecosystem. This makes the site the largest tract of native vegetation in an urban setting in Western Canada.
  • The Museum has a comprehensive in-house program to recycle glass, cans, paper, cardboard and scrap metal. It has a composting (organic waste recycling) program for its commercial kitchen and banquet operations, as well as its administration areas.
  • To encourage staff to be green commuters, the Museum provides a bicycle lockup, showers and change facilities for employees who cycle to work. It also participates in a Winnipeg Transit program that provides subsidized bus passes for staff members who use transit.


Water efficiency

  • The Museum harvests rainwater. An underground cistern stores rainwater from roof run-off for use in the air-conditioning and toilet-flushing systems. The goal for toilet flushing is to reduce water use by 50 percent, versus standard systems.
  • Ultra-low-flow plumbing fixtures and waterless urinals in washrooms minimize water use. These are targeted to reduce water use by about 30 percent, compared to standard fixtures.
  • The Museum’s green roofs and grounds require no irrigation.
  • An innovative approach to stormwater prevents collected rainwater from being released directly into the Red River. Instead, stormwater accumulates in a cistern for use in the building, or in an overflow pond on the grounds, where it can be absorbed as groundwater or evaporate.


Energy efficiency

  • High-efficiency condensing boilers heat the building. These boilers recover energy from flue gasses that would ordinarily be wasted.
  • The air-conditioning system uses chillers that are up to 15 percent more efficient than standard chillers. These machines are highly efficient under part-load conditions, which can occur as the number of people in the Museum varies throughout the day.
  • The main air-handling unit uses a heat-recovery (enthalpy) wheel. It extracts energy from the building’s exhaust air, using it to pre-heat incoming fresh air in winter or pre-cool it in summer. In winter, the target for the wheel is to provide about 2.5 million BTU of heat per hour. 
  • Variable frequency drives (VFDs) are used on most large electrical motors in the Museum’s heating and cooling systems. They allow the equipment to turn on gradually and modulate based on the building’s requirements, reducing power usage compared to conventional motors.
  • In office areas, space temperatures are set by a centralized system, helping to maximize energy efficiency.
  • The windows in the Cloud, the building’s huge expanse of glass, contain a layer of argon gas for insulation. They are also made with a “frit” or dot pattern to reduce indoor solar heat and glare.
  • Natural light from the Cloud reduces the need for artificial light. LED and high-efficiency lighting is installed throughout the building.
  • Occupancy sensors turn lights off when spaces are unoccupied.


Materials selection

  • More than 15 percent of building materials (by cost) contained recycled content. Materials with recycled content included concrete, rebar, structural steel, drywall and furniture.
  • Many materials, such as concrete and Tyndall stone, were sourced from the nearby region. This reduced the environmental impact of transporting them.
  • To minimize the building’s effect on the ozone layer, no CFCs or HCFCs (ozone-depleting substances) are used in the cooling system. No ozone-depleting halons are used in fire-suppression equipment.


Indoor environmental quality

  • All carpets, adhesives, sealants, paints and coatings were chosen to be low-VOC-emitting. This means they give off minimal volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The building was “flushed” before opening to further minimize any off-gassing.
  • Furniture in the Museum is GREENGUARD certified. This means it has met some of the world's most rigorous standards for low emissions of VOCs.
  • An air-quality monitoring system uses sensors to detect how much carbon dioxide is in the building. The system gauges when the vents need to add quantities of fresh outdoor air. This meets the needs of staff and visitors for fresh air and minimizes the possibility of wasting heating or cooling energy on more fresh air than is necessary.
  • 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.