VCU and the ICA are committed to building a greener and more sustainable campus. We spoke with the ICA’s Interim Director of Facilities, Installation, and Exhibition Design Michael Lease to explore the positive environmental impact of key construction materials and the site’s landscape.

One of the most visible green elements will be the zinc panels that cover the exterior of the Institute for Contemporary Art’s building, at the Markel Center. There are several reasons why using zinc is environmentally friendly. First, it’s 100% recyclable; it can be used again and again. Second, it resists corrosion. Third, it is a natural fungistat, reducing the risk of mold, mildew, and fungus, and the need for fungicides, which can pollute storm water runoff and stress local habitats.  A structural benefit of the zinc paneling is its physical flexibility for some of the building’s curved walls, particularly the section along Broad that will span more than two stories.  To get a sense of how the Markel Center might look, check out the new Riverside Museum of Transport in Glasgow, UK, designed by Zaha Hadid.

Another prominent green element of the site will be visible when looking down. Bluestone will be used to pave the Thinking Field, an outside garden and reflecting pool located at the Pine Street entrance.  Bluestone, a colloquial way of saying basalt rock, is used for many different construction needs. It is a popular choice for construction because it can withstand cold, hard winters and freeze-thaw cycles. Despite its name, the bluestone used in the Thinking Field has a gray, slate color appearance, similar to the zinc panels in the building.  The pavers are approximately 4 x 8 feet in size (also similar to the zinc panels) with crushed bluestone fill in between. The application of bluestone pavers and gravel provides a permeable base to manage storm water runoff.

As VCU builds a greener campus, the ICA’s landscaping honors the local biodiversity of Central Virginia. In addition to three green roofs, the ICA’s grounds will incorporate several different types of Virginia vegetation. The variety of plants — a select list follows — will offer a range of color, texture, and height.

Andropogon Virginicus: Broomsedge bluestem, or yellowsedge bluestem
Carex pensylvanica: Pennsylvania sedge
Chasmanthium latifolium: Woodoats, Inland sea oats, Northern sea oats, or River oats
Schizachyrium scoparium: Little bluestem or beard grass
Solidago caesia: Blue-stemmed goldenrod, wreath goldenrod, or woodland goldenrod

To learn more about VCU’s Green Initiatives you can visit the Office of Sustainability websites.

Green Guide to the Building (Part 1)
Green Guide to the Building (Part 3)

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