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Courtesy of the McMichael Gallery


The McMichael Canadian Art Collection is the only LEED® Certified art gallery in Canada. This is a remarkable feat, especially since it was built in 1952 as a pioneer-style home. Built of fieldstone and hand-hewn logs, the original home of Robert and Signe McMichael has since expanded to 13 exhibition galleries that feature floor-to-ceiling windows which overlook inspiring Canadian wilderness landscapes amid the 100 acres of conservation land surrounding the McMichael. Over the decades, wise investments have been made to become more efficient, such as the solar capture system installed on the south-east corner of the gallery building. Over the years, renovations and upgrades have improved operational performance immensely. And now, achieving LEED certification is a big milestone to add to the wonderful history of this renowned cultural facility. [1]

Situated on 100 acres of forested conservation land in the Humber River Valley, just north of Toronto, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection has long been dedicated to a notion of stewardship that includes its art holdings and the ecosystems around it. As early as 1991, the gallery’s Board of Trustees approved an updated environmental policy that committed to “responsible environmental management of its property, buildings and operations.”

[Operations Manager Sheri Guevara-Mann] estimates the cost of the retrofits and upgrading was somewhere in the range of $500,000, though she can’t be precise because the McMichael didn’t specifically separate LEED projects from its regular budget at the time. Without that initial figure, it’s difficult to calculate whether the gallery has already recouped the investment in resource and energy savings, but “generally,” [Facilities Manager Ron Fischer] says, “certifying for LEED will save you money.” There’s a misconception that green buildings cost more to construct and operate. When costs overrun, green provisions are often among the first to be slashed. However, if LEED is included from the design phase, [Senior Manager of Green Building Programs at the Canada Green Building Council Peter Whitred] says, a certified building only costs about two per cent more than a building constructed strictly to code. [2]

A significant challenge for many older buildings, such as the Collection (const. 1965), is achieving proper levels of ventilation for human health and to meet current ventilation standards. To increase the amount of ventilation air in the Collection, seven energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) were added. These ERVs are an efficient way to bring in more outdoor air as heat and humidity from outgoing air is used to pre-treat incoming air. Additionally, 6 kW of PV panels were added to the roof of the building.

In terms of lighting retrofits, the Collection’s offices now have efficient T5 ballasts connected to occupancy sensors and occupant dimming controls to increase energy efficiency. This lighting upgrade was one of several new features that helped the Collection use 33 per cent less energy than other museums and galleries. As a result of these changes, the building uses 33 per cent less energy than other museums/galleries.

In 2008, the Collection underwent a renovation to its public washroom facilities. With the EB:O&M process underway, the museum decided to use this renovation as an opportunity to decrease its water use by installing low-flow water fixtures.

Despite an existing recycling policy, one area that the Collection wanted to improve was waste diversion. The Collection’s waste management contractor completed a waste stream audit to identify potential ways to increase the amount of waste diverted from the landfill. The audit identified that as a building containing a restaurant, the Collection produced a significant amount of organic waste. Therefore, the Collection and waste management contractor implemented an organics program to send this waste to a composting facility. As a result, the facility now has a 58 per cent waste diversion rate.

A new area of policy enacted by the Collection was in regards to tracking sustainable purchases. The Collection now thoroughly examines sustainable alternatives to all products purchased, which helped the project achieve three Exceptional Performance Innovation points under LEED. Examples of the products that were switched to more sustainable options include janitorial paper products and green housekeeping supplies. [3]


[1]       “McMichael Leed®s the Way to Sustainable Art Space by Becoming First LEED® Certified Art Gallery in Canada!” McMichael Canadian Art Collection, March 17, 2017. https://mcmichael.com/mcmichael-leeds-the-way-to-sustainable-art-space-by-becoming-first-leed-certified-art-gallery-in-canada/.

[2]         Hampton, Chris. “The Green Cube.” Canadian Art, September 27, 2018. https://canadianart.ca/features/the-green-cube/.

[3]        “McMichael Gallery First LEED Canada EB:O&M Certified Institutional Facility.” Building, November 16, 2010. https://building.ca/mcmichael-gallery-first-leed-canada-eb-o-m-certified-institutional-facility/.

Additional information:

“Canadian Art Gallery.” McMichael Canadian Art Collection, August 3, 2021. https://mcmichael.com/.

“History of the Mcmichael.” McMichael Canadian Art Collection, August 7, 2018. https://mcmichael.com/about/history/.

Koehler, Paul Kevin. “McMichael Canadian Art Collection.” PMA Landscape Architects Ltd. Accessed August 6, 2021. http://www.pmalarch.ca/projects/social/mcmichael-canadian-art-collection/.

“Making Spaces for Art: A Case Study.” Arts Build Ontario, n.d. https://www.artsbuildontario.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Making-Spaces-for-Art-McMichael-Canadian-Art-Collection.pdf.

Project Title: McMichael Canadian Art Collection 
Artists:  Leo Venchiarutti (original build)
Year: 1965

Place: Kleinburg, Ontario

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