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Naturally, Utah Museum Turns to Copper Locally sourced copper applied to façade and used for innovative building design


Where Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Moun- tain Range meet, there stands an architectural double entendre. Wrapped in copper and glass, the Natural History Museum of Utah rises out of the foothills as a gateway to Utah’s wildlife and a passage to Utah’s rich natural history. Located on the University of Utah campus'


outskirts, the facility is responsible for the conser- vation of more than 1.2 million artifacts, while also functioning as a key venue for academic work and extensive graduate research through the university. The architectural goals for the building were to


capture the museum’s mission statement, “to il- luminate the natural world and the place of humans within it,” through both innovative design and sustainable initiatives. Creating a physical representation of this


mission was a challenge presented to Design Architect Todd Schliemann from the New York City–based studio Ennead Architects. In asso- ciation with GSBS Architects, a local Salt Lake City fi rm, it was determined that the museum’s design demanded a deeper, more spiritual archi- tectural experience. To pay homage to the land surrounding the


museum, a native metal, copper, was selected for the facade of this 163,000-square-foot building. The copper was mined locally at Kennecott Utah Copper’s Bingham Canyon, which is less than 30 miles from the museum. Schliemann drew inspiration from the moun- tains and valleys of the surrounding area and


selected a standing seam copper cladding system because it replicates the stratifi ed aesthetics of a canyon. The horizontal bands of different cop- per alloys were applied one on top of the other. Copper and two copper alloys (10 percent zinc/90 percent copper–commercial bronze and 15 per- cent zinc/85 percent copper–red brass) give the building a unique character. The project earned a 2012 North American


Copper in Architecture award from the copper industry recently. “We see many copper cladding projects from all over the U.S. and Canada, but few compare to this system,” says Andy Kireta Jr., vice president for the Copper Development Association (CDA). “The unique and creative mix of copper alloys and the attention to detail makes this project a stand-out in the industry.” The 42,000 square feet of copper paneling


seemingly weaves its way into the mountainside. The assimilation is uncanny and the copper detail also replicates the seasons. As the foliage of the region changes from red to green each year, so will the copper as it patinas over time. “This museum is a testament to the evolution


of Utah,” says Museum Director Sarah George. “Copper’s natural history is a reminder that the world around us continues to change every day.” The copper work helps fulfi ll the fi rst part of


the museum’s mission, “to illuminate the natural world,” but the second part, “and the place of humans within it,” is more subtly addressed by the design and construction.


By Wayne Seale The building is designed to achieve LEED


Gold certifi cation, and 25 percent of its physical composition is recycled materials. The construction process also integrated sustainable practices as more than 75 percent of the waste produced was recycled. That included 205 tons of wood, 154 tons of metal, 24 tons of plastic and cardboard, 1,086 tons of concrete and 2.1 tons of offi ce supplies. “Sustainability is respecting the future,” says


George. “And in order to preserve Utah’s natural history for future generations, we must commit to its protection.” Though important, the issue of sustainability


runs deeper than any LEED certifi cation program. The museum lives by these standards and is aware that it will be looked upon as the example of environmental excellence for every similar project moving forward. “Everyone is focused on sustainable design in


today’s world, but the truth is that sustainable fea- tures are not always apparent. In fact, the best ones are not,” says Schliemann. “Although it is designed to achieve LEED Gold certifi cation, this building does not need to wear sustainability on its sleeve. Much of what we did is not even recognized by the LEED rating; it is just the right thing to do.”


Wayne Seale, AIA, NCARB, is the program manager for the Copper Development Association, specializing in architectural applications. For more information about copper’s use in building applica- tions, visit www.copper.org


38 METAL CONSTRUCTION NEWS July 2012


www.metalconst ruct ionnews.com


Photography: Jeff Goldberg, Esto


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