The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia is constructing a 56,000-square-foot addition called the Nicholas and Athena Karabots Exhibit Pavilion. The new pavilion will bring several unique, green features to the hands-on science museum, including a cutting-edge permanent exhibit dedicated to the study of the brain, a rain garden, and a shimmer wall. The new pavilion has an expected completion date at the end of 2013 and a planned opening in June 2014, and the three-story addition is targeting LEED Silver certification, but project architect David L. Searles of SaylorGregg Architects says the building has been “in Gold range for a while now, and we are doing all we can to keep the certification level as high as possible.”

Supported by a gift of $10 million from the Karabots, the $22.5 million pavilion is the museum’s first expansion in more than 20 years and will introduce a permanent in-depth brain and neurology exhibit presented by Teva Pharmaceuticals USA covering 8,500 square feet of the second floor’s 10,000 square feet and housed in the Frank Baldino, Jr. Gallery. On the third floor, another 10,000 square feet of climate-controlled space will host traveling exhibits, and the first floor will serve as an education and conference center with classrooms and integrated learning technologies.

The Franklin Institute’s vice president of operations Rich Rabena says the pavilion provides much needed space for permanent exhibits and special activities. “When the institute was opened in 1932, it was originally designed to cover an entire city block but ended up covering only half a block,” Rabena says. “In 1989, there was an addition, and now the pavilion will allow a connection to public circulation around Franklin Hall and will convert the dead-end galleries into a continuous route on all floors.”

The pavilion’s attractions continue on the outside with a highly sustainable rain garden that will serve as an extensive storm-water-management system, an important aspect of the exterior design that addresses new city codes prohibiting the dumping of storm water into the sewage system. “It’s very much an active experience of watching how the water is utilized,” Searles says.

When a science museum constructs a sustainable building, the story doesn’t stop there. An informational plaque, which might earn the project a LEED Innovation credit, on the exterior of the pavilion will describe the entire sustainable design process and include details about the exterior elements of the rain garden and the shimmer wall. Created by artist Ned Kahn, the aluminum kinetic façade of the shimmer wall is designed to make wind visible and is the first of its kind in the state.

Other sustainable elements in the building include LED light fixtures where possible, energy-efficient chillers to replace the existing ones, fly ash in the concrete, and countertops with recycled aluminum. Through the implementation of these various sustainable elements, Searles estimates a 17.5 percent energy savings. “But it goes beyond that,” he says, “because of the existing building, where the old chillers and cooling towers are all being upgraded.” Rabena points out that the museum will also promote alternative transportation with bicycle racks, electric vehicle-charging stations in the parking garage, and opportunities for ride sharing to the museum.