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News Release

Sealaska Heritage Institute

The United States Green Building Council has awarded Sealaska Heritage Institute’s (SHI) Walter Soboleff Building a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating, making it the second structure in Southeast Alaska to win gold status. 

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is the most widely used green building rating system in the world, and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold is the second highest level of performance that can be achieved under the program. The ratings are awarded to honor exceptional building performance and are based on evaluations of environmental sustainability, occupant well-being and energy efficiency. 

Sealaska Heritage Institute - Walter Soboleff Building

Sealaska Heritage Institute early on set Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold as a requirement for the design of its building, which opened in 2015, to comport with core cultural values that honor past, present and future generations, said Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl.

“Although we realized that meeting the gold standard would mean higher initial construction costs, we had no other alternative but to ensure that we complied with our core cultural values, such as Haa Shuká, which translates as honoring our ancestors and future generations,” Worl said. “Buildings have an enormous impact on the well-being of people and the planet, and we’re proud to say we’ve achieved one of the greenest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design levels in the world.” 

The only other building in Southeast Alaska to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Juneau Forestry Sciences Laboratory at Auke Lake.

Notable features in the building that contributed to the rating include regionally-sourced yellow cedar plank siding, renewable pellet heating, healthy interior materials, exposure to natural daylight and very high thermal efficiency in the construction and systems.

The design team was led by MRV Architects and included PDC Engineers for mechanical and civil design, Haight and Associates (with PDC) for electrical design, BBFM Engineers, Inc., for structural design and Alaska Energy Engineering, LLC, for energy modeling. The structure was built by Dawson Construction, with SHI’s Chief Operating Officer Lee Kadinger representing the Institute throughout design and construction phases. 

MRV President Paul Voelckers notes “this project was an exceptional opportunity to showcase Native cultural materials and form, as well as best design practices. The team worked together to create a building that honors its setting and history.”

MRV Architects is a leading practitioner of sustainable design, with seven Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified projects. Their design expertise is centered around cultural facilities, libraries, schools and commercial buildings. MRV’s award-winning project portfolio attests to the firm’s successes in a wide array of project types.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. Sealaska Heritage Institute also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.