The Water + Life Museums complex in Hemet, California, has just become the first museum to break the LEED Platinum barrier, beating out the California Academy of Sciences and scores of other hopeful projects. The stunning $40 million campus runs 72,000 square feet and was constructed by LA based Michael Lehrer Architects. The iconic cultural complex has done an incredible job of keeping a light footprint while adapting to a challenging desert climate that runs from freezing in the winter to more than 100 degrees in the summer.

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The impetus for the museum’s construction stems from the creation of the Diamond Valley Lake Reservoir in 1999. Considered the largest earthworks project on US soil, the massive dig produced an incredible array of fossils and artifacts. The Center for Water Education and Western Center Communication Foundation decided to create a museum fitting in form and function to display the finds. Michael Lehrer stated that “the museum’s exhibits are about local resources, so the building itself is a ‘living’ example of sustainability and conservation”.

The roof is topped with one of the largest solar installations of its kind, a 540 watt, 3000 panel solar array that produces nearly half of the complex’s power needs while shading the interior from the scorching desert sun. Additional shading is provided via translucent panels that hang over 8,000 square feet of the structure’s heat blocking glass. The interior makes use of abundant day-lighting and features radiant flooring backed by a sophisticated HVAC system. The terraced gardens are fed through a drip irrigation system that uses reclaimed water. Lehrer stated “We are gratified to receive the Platinum rating, but even more proud that the Water+Life Museums will effectively conserve water and electricity for generations to come.”

+ Michael Lehrer Architects

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