The three-room exhibit features two cross-sections of modular and portable classrooms that illustrate sustainable construction design and materials; 32 poster-board displays that provide a brief narrative on green schools and describe featured schools; a handful of new products that reduce energy or water, save money, or improve health; and a television screen that shows four repeating videos.
All three exhibit rooms are covered with a dark green Sherman-Williams brand paint that is free of volatile organic compounds, toxic emissions commonly called VOCs. The durable zero-VOC paint can improve the health of students and teachers in schools.
In the back room, a waterless urinal and a high-efficiency hand dryer hangs on the side wall, opposite the television. The room also contains a tintable window, an advanced solar panel and recycled carpet.
Unfortunately, the exhibit is tucked in three small rooms, only two of the rooms have natural light and much of the exhibit consists of two-dimensional narrative text on poster boards, some hung on the walls, others on floor display. Perhaps that presentation explains the initial low turnout.
The visitation rate today was about 20 people per hour rather than the more typical 40 per hour said the exhibit attendant during our visit. However, those who came during our visit seemed to enjoy it.
Notwithstanding the lack of natural light and few visually stimulating features, the exhibit provides interesting and valuable information about green school design and features five D.C. schools.
The five D.C. schools – Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School, Stoddert Elementary School, Watkins Elementary School, Sidwell Friends Middle School, and Walker-Jones Education Campus and the Farm at Walker Jones – each use a variety of green practices, such as heavy reliance on solar energy to reduce carbon emissions, rain gardens and garden ponds to reduce stormwater runoff, and urban gardens to serve as a learning laboratory and to feed local residents.
The National Building Museum is a must-see. The historic building constructed in 1887 originally housed the U.S. Pension Bureau headquarters. Now, the red-brick exterior and interior Great Hall with large Corinthian columns provide a wonderfully open and bright space surrounded by the Renaissance-inspired architecture for museum visitors to enjoy exhibits on architecture and design, sustainability and building arts.
In addition to its programs, the Museum offers a green building kit for educators, a once-a-month program series on smart growth, a hands-on building arts space for children and a wonderful book store. The green schools exhibit, open until January 5, 2014, provides a good exhibit to see while you’re at the Museum for one of these other purposes.