Meeting the LEED Gold Standard – Markham Museum Collections Building [Case Study]

*Guest Post by Cathy Molloy, Director of Markham Museum, and an Ontario Museum Association Board member.

Completed in 2011, the Markham Museum Collections Building was built as an exhibition hall and storage area for artifacts and archival material. This remarkable building serves as the gateway to the Museum.


Markham Museum connects the history of Markham to today’s new ‘settlers’ by examining our environment and the tools we use to adapt to our changing world. The 25-acre Museum site offers: exhibits, school programs, public programs and events, private event venues and research facilities.

A little background – the Museum is owned and operated by the City of Markham in Ontario, Canada. Markham has an active Sustainability Office . All City facilities are ‘waste free’. Even Museum events are ‘waste free,’ and all vendors and visitors are to use only compostable or recyclable materials.

The Museum also has several gardens and features built with partners, such as native plant gardens, waterless gardens and a windmill to aerate the storm retention pond at the back of the site. Programming at Markham museum is very much focused on sustainability and shared human technologies such as pottery, textile working and food production. So, it was natural that our collection building was designed to fulfill LEED requirements.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design® (LEED) is a rating system that is recognized as the international mark of excellence for green building in over 160 countries. Since 2002, the Canada Green Building Council® (CaGBC) and LEED Canada have been redefining the buildings and communities where Canadians live, work and learn.

The certification program focuses primarily on new, commercial-building projects and based upon a points system. The more points you earn, the higher your rating. Based on the number of points achieved, a project then receives one of four LEED rating levels: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. LEED-certified buildings are resource efficient. They use less water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Markham Museum met LEED Gold qualification by meeting a number of standards, including:

  • Alternate Transportation
  • Reflective Roof
  • Water Reduction
  • Construction Materials
  • Mechanical Systems
  • Healthy Workplace

Alternate Transportation

The Markham Museum Collections Building is located within close proximity to multiple public transit routes, (Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), Government of Ontario (GO) trains and buses, York Region Transit and others.) In addition to providing bike racks for visitors and employees, the City of Markham encourages carpooling by providing designated carpool spaces close to the main entrance and is an active member of Smart Commute Markham – Richmond Hill.

Reflective Roof

To reduce the impact on the surrounding environment,highly reflective roof materials were selected. The reflective materials provide highly reflective surfaces that will assist in reducing energy demand in the summer and reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect.

Water Reduction

To reduce the potable water demand of the Markham Museum Collections Building, dual flush, 6/4.2L flush water closets, waterless urinals and 1.9 LPM faucets have been provided in public washrooms. As well, the staff shower features a 5.7 LPM shower head. These measures have contributed to a potable water reduction of over 40% against baseline conditions.

Flush choice on toilets

In addition to these measures a 20,000L rain water system for water closet flushing has been installed to greater reduce the potable water demand of the building.

Collectively these installed measures have reduced the water demand of Markham Museum Collections Building 92.72%, saving a total of 276,253L per year against a standard baseline.

Construction Materials

Markham is an ideal location within Southern Ontario to source many construction materials manufactured and extracted within 800 km of the site. These regional materials, such as concrete, reinforcing and structural steel, and landscaping materials account for 30.71% of the materials used to construct and finish the Markham Museum Collections Building.

recycled materials:concrete:steel

Also, recycled materials account for 11.32% of all materials, and of the waste generated during construction and demolition, 88.9% was diverted from landfill.

Mechanical Systems

The Markham Museum Collections Building incorporated a Geothermal Heat Exchange System. This system uses a CFC/HCFC free refrigerant that is pumped through a series of pipes 110m below ground. Once preheated by the earth, the refrigerant is used to preheat the high efficiency water boilers used to supply hot water to the building’s heating coils and heat pumps.

Mechanical Systems

These systems and other energy efficient measures have resulted in an energy cost savings of 56.28% against the base building design.

Healthy workplace

Special emphasis was placed on creating a healthy indoor environment for the current and future employees of the Markham Museum Collections Building. Construction practices that consider indoor air quality were put into place and monitored throughout. This included using only low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) products to reduce and eliminate harmful off-gassed pollutants.

The Town has also implemented a Green Housekeeping Policy that includes environmentally friendly cleaning methods and cleaning product requirements.

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  1. Douglas Worts

    The efforts of the Markham Museum are impressive. There are so many initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of the facility. I can see from Cathy’s article that there have been many impacts on the museum’s operation. My question is whether the museum has assessed impacts on the public of these various strategies. I’m guessing that most anyone on staff who was involved in the operational decisions, implementation or even use of the strategies associated with the LEAD Gold certification will have been affected by them – although it would be fascinating to know how these initiative affect staff and volunteers who started after these greening efforts. It also would be interesting to know how much impact there has been on the public as a result of the museum’s decision to go down this path. In addition, I’d like to know if the museum has used the actual retrofits and related strategies in the development of public programs, and if there is any data on public impacts springing from such programs? In fact, I bet many people who are monitoring this blog would be interested to know if the Markham Museum articulated public education/engagement goals related to the greening, quite independent of any actual impact measurements. Ultimately, I believe that museums aim to have their work both generate gains in efficiency and reductions in energy use associated with the LEAD certification, as well as have ripple effects across the community? Thanks!

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