DLR Group Earns AIA’s Committee on the Environment Top Ten Award

Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC, 21st century renovation by DLR Group. Photo by Kevin G. Reeves.

DLR Group’s renovation design of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., was selected as one of 10 recipients of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) Top Ten Award. This is the design industry’s premier program celebrating sustainable design excellence. Now in its 22nd year, the COTE Awards highlight projects that exemplify the integration of great design and great performance by meeting rigorous criteria for social, economic, and ecological value.

“This is a great honor for DLR Group and for the team who worked on the Renwick Gallery. It’s a testament to our intense passion and commitment to sustainable design as well as to the preservation of a historic building like the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery,” said DLR Group Principal Roger Chang, PE, LEED Fellow, who led the design team for the Renwick project. “This kind of project highlights how design elevates not only our ecological responsibility but just as importantly creates healthy, holistic environments for building occupants.  The outcome of this project is significant exhibit flexibility and a unique integration of historic character acting as a compelling backdrop to 21st century immersive art exhibits.” 

AIA COTE Jury members stated, “The success of the Renwick’s improvements demonstrate that museums and historic landmarks can deliver comfort energy savings with creative retrofits and will hopefully encourage similar projects. The Renwick Gallery renovation wove complex and robust new systems while preserving the impressive historic design and collection and allowing opportunities for new works to be displayed. All of this was done within a very restrained site, budget, and schedule.”

The Renwick Gallery was the first purpose-built art museum in the country built in 1859 to the design of architect James Renwick, Jr.  The previous renovation occurred between 1967 and 1972. DLR Group’s 21st century renovation completed in 2015, which replaced and improved major building infrastructure, enhanced historic features, and improved flexibility for exhibits. The project included restoration of two long-concealed vaulted ceilings, re-creation of the original 19th-century window configuration, replacement of all building systems, and improvements for accessibility. The project achieved a 50 percent reduction in annual energy use, while welcoming more than 500,000 visitors in the first six months after re-opening in 2015.

The project team demonstrated that a historic building can be restored and modernized to today's building codes and standards while meeting an aggressive goal for environmental control, budget, and schedule. The core design team of specialists in sustainability, architecture, interior design, MEP engineering, technology design, historic preservation, and architectural lighting design were from the single integrated firm of DLR Group.

Learn more about DLR Group's work on the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum