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Museum deemed leader in energy, design savings considered

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Nov. 29--NORMAL -- The Children's Discovery Museum has done something others are only hoping to achieve.

It's the first children's museum in the nation to earn a silver rating in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design from the U.S. Green Building Council.

"It's fantastic," said Normal Assistant City Manager Pamela Reece. "We were just excited to be the first to implement LEED standards downtown. And we were excited to be the first public facility in the area (reaching LEED certification). But it's fantastic we're the first children's museum.

"Not only does it set a standard for construction but as an educational facility for youth. It shows we do care for the people in it both the youth and the employees."

Ten other children's museums across the country are either building toward certification or waiting for official word from the U.S. Green Building Council, said Janet Rice Elman, executive director of the Association of Children's Museums in Washington, D.C.

"It's the trend," said Rice Elman. "The (children's museum) field is growing so rapidly, it's a natural fit to see a certain number looking at green building designs. It tells the community they care deeply about the long-term health of the community."

Reece said the local museum achieved the status through such things as recycling construction waste, using a roof that reflects light, installing a high energy-efficient heating and air conditioning system, and providing showers and locker rooms to encourage employees to bicycle or use other alternatives to driving to get to work.

The museum also gained points by using building materials with a high content of recycled products and by getting materials within a 500-mile radius.

But the process was very time-consuming. Reese said general contractors CORE Construction dedicated one worker just to documenting the process for the certification. CORE had to provide several recycling bins to separate materials and had to keep track of the percent of items diverted from the landfill.

"This shows small- and medium-sized museums can also be a leader," said Children's Discovery Museum manager Shari Buckellew.

Experts say environmentally friendly buildings pay for themselves in the long run, Reece said, but there also are other benefits.

"Employees are healthier in a building when glue, paint and primer meet air standards," she said.

"It's a commitment to the sustainability of children and family as well as the community and the environment," said Rice Elman.


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