VCU and the ICA are committed to building a greener and more sustainable campus. Maximizing the opportunities of a new construction project, the ICA is incorporating technologies that ensure building operations will have a limited environmental impact. We spoke with the ICA’s Interim Director of Administration Jaime Baird about three engineering features — geothermal wells, green roof assemblies, and glass cavity walls — that will reduce the need for fossil fuels to maintain the building at a constant temperature and humidity required when exhibiting art.

Geothermal Wells
A geothermal well is a central heating/cooling system that uses the earth as a heat source in winter, and as a heat sink in summer. The ICA currently has 42 geothermal wells drilled to approximately 460 feet below ground, before they reach the James River aquifer. Energy sourced from the geothermal wells will be converted into radiant floor heating and cooling. Geothermal wells are rare in cultural institutions as retro-fitting old buildings are cost-prohibitive and few organizations have the opportunity to construct new facilities. Another museum also tapping into the ground resources of geothermal wells is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.

Green Roof Assemblies
Three of the four gallery roofs, approximately 7,500 square feet, will incorporate green roof assemblies. Blanketed with native species, the technology will help insulate the building during cold months, absorb urban heat during hot ones, and reduce storm water runoff. Green roof assemblies are designed to be low maintenance and require no watering or weeding. The assembly consists of membranes and insulation layers that guard against leaks. All three roofs will be inaccessible to visitors but the roofs can be enjoyed visually from different vantage points in and around the building. The ICA’s green roofs will join several others at VCU including the VCUarts’ Pollak building and Rice River Center.

Glass Cavity Walls
Glass cavity walls will be installed on portions of the western and eastern faces of the building totaling approximately 3,350 square feet. The double-paned glass will reduce heat transfer out during winter months, and reduce heat transfer in during the summer. The cavity between the glass panes spans four feet, allowing staff to access the space for maintenance. Artwork can be damaged by sunlight thus the glass will be coated to regulate UV rays.

The building will have backup systems in place for those rare occasions when these green, systems aren’t enough, but preliminary energy modeling suggests the majority of the heating and cooling, and much of the daytime lighting needs, will be met with these three engineering features.

Green Guide to the Building (Part 2)
Green Guide to the Building (Part 3)

Image: Rendering of the Broad Street entrance of the Institute for Contemporary Art at the Markel Center at VCU. ©Steven Holl Architects and the Institute for Contemporary Art, VCU