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Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Credit: Grand Rapids Art Museum. Photo: Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing

As a leading provider of sustainable construction materials, Lafarge is making a strong contribution to building more beautiful cities.  Our innovative solutions enable the design of all types of architecturally special and visually pleasing buildings, such as the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) in Western Michigan.  Designed to be as beautiful as the artworks within, the museum is an urban oasis surrounded by tall buildings.


Perhaps GRAM's most unique features, however, are its environmentally friendly building materials.  Designed by wHY Architecture, this "eARTH" friendly" cultural institution is the first newly built art museum to achieve LEED® Gold status. Its 125,000 square-foot building is organized around an elegant central pavilion of glass and light-colored architectural concrete flanked by a reflecting pool, sculpture courtyard and dining terraces. Pockets of nature between pavilions slow people down from the hectic pace of urban life in this growing metropolis.


The exterior high-quality architectural concrete stands out as one of the GRAM's most aesthetic and sustainable design components. The concrete canopy of its entrance pavilion, which shields the interior from the hot summer sun, also shelters an outdoor dining area. A sequence of 177 separate architectural concrete pours led to a one-of-a-kind forming system, which called for sharp corners, water-tightness and zero tolerance for rework. The end result is an eye-pleasing structure that uses the thermal mass properties of 12-inch-thick, cast-in-place concrete walls to optimize energy use.


GRAM's design utilized as many recycled and locally produced materials as was aesthetically and economically feasible, including the 20,000 cubic yards of concrete used in the building. To meet the required 4,000 to 6,000 psi strength specifications, the project team relied on a high-performance concrete mix design containing 25-30% NewCem® slag cement.  Engineered for long-term durability, this environmentally friendly product helps achieve greater strength potential, reduced permeability and improved workability.


NewCem slag cement also made a strong contribution to achieving various LEED credits for GRAM.  Its use in concrete saves virgin raw materials, consumes less energy and makes use of an industrial by-product that might otherwise be disposed of in landfills. The lighter-colored, high-performance concrete made with the slag cement also absorbs less heat from solar radiation and helps to lower the heat island effect. The result is high-performance concrete with an extended service life, lower life cycle costs, and less environmental impact.

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