Sealaska Heritage’s Walter Soboleff Building Wins Leed Gold Certification
The United States Green Building Council has awarded Sealaska Heritage Institute’s (SHI) Walter Soboleff Building a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating, making it the second structure in Southeast Alaska to win gold status.
LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world, and LEED Gold is the second highest level of performance that can be achieved under the program. The ratings are awarded to honor exceptional building performance and are based on evaluations of environmental sustainability, occupant well-being and energy efficiency.
SHI early on set LEED Gold as a requirement for the design of its building, which opened in 2015, to comport with core cultural values that honor past, present and future generations, said SHI President Rosita Worl.
“Although we realized that meeting the gold standard would mean higher initial construction costs, we had no other alternative but to ensure that we complied with our core cultural values, such as Haa Shuká, which translates as honoring our ancestors and future generations,” Worl said. “Buildings have an enormous impact on the wellbeing of people and the planet, and we’re proud to say we’ve achieved one of the greenest LEED levels in the world.”
The only other building in Southeast Alaska to achieve LEED Gold is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Juneau Forestry Sciences Laboratory at Auke Lake.
Notable features in the building that contributed to the rating include regionally-sourced yellow cedar plank siding, renewable pellet heating, healthy interior materials, exposure to natural daylight and very high thermal efficiency in the construction and systems.
The design team was led by MRV Architects and included PDC Engineers for mechanical and civil design, Haight and Associates (with PDC) for electrical design, BBFM Engineers, Inc., for structural design and Alaska Energy Engineering, LLC, for energy modeling. The structure was built by Dawson Construction, with SHI’s Chief Operating Officer Lee Kadinger representing the Institute throughout design and construction phases.
MRV President Paul Voelckers notes “this project was an exceptional opportunity to showcase Native cultural materials and form, as well as best design practices. The team worked together to create a building that honors its setting and history.”
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The Art of Architecture
Architects often find themselves facing something of a chicken and egg dilemma. When it comes to design, what takes precedence—form or function?
“It’s a great question, and it’s probably a loaded question,” says David McVeigh, president of RIM Architects. “You can ask ten different architects and get ten different answers.”
Many of the factors that influence those answers land outside the architect’s control. The client’s vision for the building, its location and intended use, the project budget, and whether the design must conform to specific guidelines are all details the architect must consider when determining how much emphasis to place on aesthetics and how much on function.