“Aiming for a gold rating — the second highest of the four conferred by the Green Building Council (platinum is higher; silver and “certified” are lower) — meant that no decision could be made without considering its environmental consequences. The museum’s design and construction teams required extra workers to document compliance with LEED criteria. Mr. Yantrasast, the architect, was born in Thailand and spent years working in Japan for the architect Tadao Ando before starting his own firm with his design partner Yo Hakomori in Los Angeles in 2003. He was chosen for his experience as project architect on Mr. Ando’s Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, not for his environmental credentials. But his philosophy, Mr. Yantrasast said, fits the museum’s vision. For one, he said, his Buddhist heritage prepared him to view life as a circle rather than as a line. Thus he is comfortable using materials that are not just recycled but recyclable. That implies that the building will eventually be altered.
‘Twenty or 30 years from now, people may have a different definition of art,’ Mr. Yantrasast said. ‘If they want to be able to change the museum, you have to give them room to do that.’ His style of architecture gave him a head start on making the Grand Rapids building energy efficient. Like Mr. Ando, Mr. Yantrasast works mostly in concrete, creating rooms that feel enclosed. ‘When you’re in a museum,’ he said, ‘you want the experience to be inward looking.’
Luckily, concrete, unlike glass, reacts slowly to temperature changes, reducing the need for heating and air-conditioning. Where the Grand Rapids building does have glass, it is used dramatically, especially in the lobby, which overlooks a park designed by Maya Lin. There are many skylights, which help bathe the artworks in natural light and reduce electricity use. But the light also creates heat, which can increase the need for air-conditioning. So the glass is filtered, layered and fitted with adjustable louvers.”