Soldiers Memorial Military Museum: A Place Of Honor Sustained

Built in 1938, the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum in St. Louis, MO has earned LEED Gold certification.


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Built in 1938, the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum in St. Louis, MO has earned LEED Gold certification.
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LEED Case Study: A Place Of Honor Sustained

Built in 1938, the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum in St. Louis, MO has earned LEED Gold certification.

Soldiers Memorial Military Museum: A Place Of Honor Sustained

By Anne Cosgrove
From the October 2019 Issue

In August 2019, when the newly renovated and restored Soldiers Memorial Military Museum in St. Louis, MO received its LEED Gold plaque this marked the culmination of several years of planning and construction aimed at elevating the condition of this edifice built to honor U.S. military veterans from the city. Opened in 1938, Soldiers Memorial Military Museum offers both long-term continuing exhibits as well as short-term special exhibits. These exhibits reflect a commitment to exploring the stories of local military service members, veterans, and their families.

Soldiers Memorial Military Museum
(Photos: Missouri Historical Society)

Owned by the City of St. Louis, the Memorial had been continuously open to the public since its inception. However, over the years the city had not been able to reinvest in the facility and the grounds to keep it up to the condition that many in the community would have liked to see. In a project that began in 2013, the 38,000 square foot facility and the Court of Honor outside underwent an extensive renovation and restoration. This included replacing and upgrading building systems (such as fire, HVAC, and security), in addition to historic restoration of design elements inside and out. Meanwhile, the Memorial is now compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Soldiers Memorial Military Museum
(Photos: Missouri Historical Society)

Karen M. Goering, managing director of administration and operations for the Missouri Historical Society (MHS), was involved in this project from the beginning stages and oversaw the process until its completion in early 2018. “I had the honor of serving as project manager and also the owner’s representative throughout the process,” she says. “I’d served in this role in the 1990s when the Society opened its Library & Research Center. That involved renovating a former synagogue over a three-year period. And I was also project manager when we added onto the history museum—a 92,000 square foot addition that opened in 2000.”

Today, Goering and her staff continue to oversee Soldiers Memorial because MHS operates both the building and Court of Honor. This is a role the Society gained as part of the overall project. The facility is still owned by the City of St. Louis, with MHS as the operator.

“In early 2013, the Society was approached about the possibility of managing the renovation and taking over the operations of Soldiers Memorial,” explains Goering. “There were generous local philanthropists willing to provide grant money to finance the renovation and restoration. We spent a year and a half on due diligence working with the city, the city’s Board of Aldermen, and our Board of Trustees to determine if the Society should do this. Ultimately, an ordinance was passed in order for the city to enter into an operating agreement where a private nonprofit [MHS] would take over the responsibility for the renovation and operation. We were incredibly fortunate for the civic minded and generous philanthropists in St. Louis that made this possible.”

Going For LEED For The Renewal

Meeting the rigorous standards for LEED certification is often a challenging task when it comes to renovating historical structures. Working alongside Goering and her MHS staff, the project team also included Mackey Mitchell Architects and BSI Constructors. “From the beginning, we were committed to the renovation of Soldiers Memorial in a sensitive, accessible, and sustainable manner,” Goering says. “It really helped that when it was originally built, it was done so with quality, local materials.”

In February 2019, MHS was notified that the project had earned LEED Gold level certification, and this past August, U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) President and CEO, Mahesh Ramanujam, visited St. Louis to present Soldiers Memorial Military Museum with its LEED certification. In his comments, Ramanujam said, “Soldiers Memorial’s LEED certification is a tremendous example of green building leadership. LEED was created to make the world a better place, revolutionize our buildings, and create spaces that help improve our own living standard. Soldiers Memorial serves as a prime example of how green building strategies can be applied to existing buildings and used to elevate and protect historical buildings while ensuring they meet today’s performance standards.”


A CHAT WITH KAREN M. GOERING

LEED Gold
Karen M. Goering
Managing Director of Administration and Operations
Missouri Historical Society

What is your role at the Missouri Historical Society?

I am managing director of administration and operations here at the Missouri Historical Society. I’ve had the good fortune to work at the institution in a variety of roles, ranging from curator to acting director since joining the staff in 1980. I’ve been in my current position for nearly 20 years.

What’s next for Missouri Historical Society facilities?

We are in the beginning stages of renovating and expanding our Library & Research Center. That facility opened in 1991, and we need more space for the artifacts, papers, and other items that the Society collects. 


Ramanujam also recognized how the revitalization of Soldiers Memorial has made the building and its exhibits ADA compliant for the first time in its history. He praised new accessibility features such as closed captioning on video elements and tactile reliefs and touchable models designed for visitors with low vision.

(During his visit to St. Louis, Ramanujam also presented the Gateway Arch in St. Louis with LEED Gold certification for its newly renovated Visitor Center and Museum.)

In pursuing LEED certification, the project team addressed multiple aspects of the building design and its operation. Below is an overview of the approach.

Sustainable Sites. The MHS renovated the Court of Honor at Soldiers Memorial by developing an outdoor space that encourages community connection and engagement. Updates to the Court of Honor were designed to encourage visitors and pedestrians to spend as much time outside as they would inside. The renovations took into account alternative transportation and included a new electric charging station for electric vehicles. The use of a white roof reduces the heat island effect, which helps minimize effects of greenhouse gases.

Energy. MHS optimized energy performance by installing new, efficient HVAC systems. Staff measure and verify energy so the Society can continue to optimize their operations. The Society worked with St. Louis Antique Lighting to restore the original Guth Lighting fixtures. The historic 1938 fixtures were renovated and rewired to use LED bulbs, decreasing energy consumption.

Materials & Resources. MHS reused materials whenever possible, including granite steps, marble walls, and in the original bathrooms the Vitrolite panels. Original terrazzo floors were restored. When it was not feasible to reuse materials, MHS purchased materials that had been recycled, sourced locally, and/or were from a certified responsible source. Materials were recycled, and a local hauler was used to dispose of waste generated.

Indoor Environmental Quality. After an extended period of time, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can greatly impact air quality in a building and in turn negatively affect the health of employees and visitors. Low emitting materials were used during construction and for permanent features within Soldiers Memorial. Sustainable cork flooring was installed in meeting rooms.

Innovation. A priority in the St. Louis region is indoor air quality. MHS addressed this priority by using environmentally responsible materials and effective use of operational equipment.

Forward To A Sustainable Future

The LEED pursuit at Soldiers Memorial Military Museum and the Court of Honor is complete, but the new way of operating is still in the early stages—with facilities staff operating new building systems. As Goering notes, sustainability had already been part of the MHS culture, with the Society participating in “green business challenges’ and the like in previous years. But the scope of the Memorial project was different. “We have a full-time sustainability coordinator on our staff now, and we see sustainability as part of our obligation to the community,” she says. “We’re doing what we can to lessen the impact on the environment.”

LEED Gold

When asked her view on the most significant change to the facility from the renovation, Goering says, “I think that the most significant change since the renovation is the complete revitalization of the Soldiers Memorial and the Court of Honor. The facility is once again a vibrant memorial honoring those from St. Louis who have served our country. There are military ceremonies held there regularly, and the interpretive exhibits engage visitors more than ever.”

And, the accessibility improvement is another aspect with significant impact. “There was an extensive commitment to accessibility,” explains Goering. “We worked with a local panel that advised us. It was critical to this project.”

Soldiers Memorial Military Museum
(Top) The renovated main exhibit hall houses tall windows that now feature relevant imagery. (Middle) The project team worked with St. Louis Antique Lighting to restore the original Guth Lighting fixtures. The historic fixtures were renovated and rewired to use LED bulbs. (Bottom) Interior hall looking out to the surrounding grounds.

A new accessible ramp along the side of the facility was built, so visitors could enter the front of the building. This was built using granite and limestone. A new elevator in was added in the building’s East wing, and an existing elevator in the west wing was brought up to code.

Reflecting on the overall project, Goering says, “We were challenged during the revitalization. We were committed to retaining the historic fabric of the building, but we also needed to update the building systems and operations to meet contemporary museum standards.”

Today, those who visit the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum are seeing those efforts in action.

Project Information

Facility: Soldiers Memorial Military Museum and Court of HonorLocation: St. Louis, MO  Square footage: 38,000  Budget: $30 million (architectural & engineering, construction, and exhibition fabrication)  Construction Timetable: 2015-2018  Facility Owner: City of St. Louis  Facility Manager and Operator: Missouri Historical SocietyIn-House Project Manager: Karen M. Goering, managing director of administration and operations, Missouri Historical SocietyArchitect: Mackey Mitchell Architects: Eugene Mackey III, Jim Konrad, and Erik BiggsAssociate Architect: Grice Group ArchitectsGeneral Contractor/Construction Manager: BSI Constructors: Joe Kaiser, Mark WellenElectrical and Mechanical Engineer: KAIStructural Engineer: David Mason AssociatesLandscape Concept: Herb SchaalLandscape Architect: DTLS, St. LouisLEED Commissioning Agent: BRiCFountain Consultant: Hydro DynamicsCivil Engineer: CDITransportation Engineer: CBBLighting Design: Randy BurkettAudiovisual Consultant: Schillers

Product Information

Flooring: Expanko (cork) Carpet: Mohawk GroupCeilings: USG Mars (acoustical ceiling panels)Paint: Sherwin-WilliamsAcoustics/Sound Masking: Golterman & Sabo (wall panels) Restroom Fixtures: American StandardFire System: Tyco Fire Protection ProductsLighting Products: LSI, Lumenpulse, Metalux, Prudential, Surelite, USAI LightingHVAC Equipment: EVAPCO (cooling tower), Trane (heat pumps) Power Supply/Backup Power: Kohler (generator) Roofing: Versico Roofing SystemsWindows: All SeasonsDoors: CRL (entrance), Steelcraft (interior metal), VT Industries (interior wood) Elevators/Escalators: Concept Elevator Group (elevator), Handi-Lift (lift)

Anne CosgroveCosgrove is Editor-in-Chief of Facility Executive magazine. 

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