The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) has been certified by the Canada Green Building Council as a LEED® Silver building, meeting some of the highest environmental performance standards in the world.
Green roofs, rainwater harvesting, natural lighting and a high-efficiency heating system are among the many features that contributed to its rating under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program.
The CMHR grounds are also Canada's largest tract of revegetated native prairie in an urban downtown setting. More than 1.6 hectares of grounds and 2,800 square metres of roof were seeded with 15 species of prairie grasses, plants and trees — creating a drought-tolerant prairie ecosystem that saves on maintenance and irrigation.
This summer, the grounds were also the site of a community garden created in partnership with horticulture students from the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resources Development.
"Human rights and environmental responsibility are interconnected," said CMHR president and CEO John Young. "People have the right to live in health and safety, to earn a sustainable livelihood and to maintain culture."
The Museum site – on ancestral lands, Treaty One territory and the heartland of the Métis people – is also recognized in multiple ways in its exhibits and programs. During construction, as a gesture of respect for the site, traditional medicine bags were deposited in each of the drill holes for the piles and caissons that support the structure.
The CMHR building was planned with sustainability as a goal, with efforts to minimize its impact on the natural world and people's health, both during the construction phase and as the building operates for years to come.
Antoine Predock designed the Museum and PCL was the construction manager, with architecture carried out by Architecture 49. Scatliff + Miller + Murray carried out the landscape architecture. Engineering services were provided by Halcrow Yolles/CH2M Hill (structural), The Mitchell Partnership (mechanical) and Mulvey & Banani (electrical).
Many of the CMHR's green building features are listed in the backgrounder below. High-resolution photos are available upon request.
The LEED® Certification trademark is licensed to the Canada Green Building Council and is used here with permission.
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.