Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Smith Education Center at Monticello

Charlottesville, Virginia

Innovative Yet Organic Strategies for a Historic Site

In planning the new visitor center at Monticello, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation envisioned an educational and inspiring “gateway” experience for visitors as they arrive to tour one of the country’s most famous residences. The design team focused on minimizing the impact of the 42,000-square-foot center on the historic site, while introducing innovations to enhance the sustainability of the LEED®-Gold facility.

The new complex is composed of five pavilions constructed on a sloping, hillside site around a central courtyard. The three-level structures house four major exhibitions, a small theater, a gift shop, café, classrooms, and the Griffin Discovery Room—an interactive environment in which children can explore Jefferson’s life and achievements. The project was designed to optimize the building envelope. Sustainable highlights include variable air flow units, water-conserving plumbing fixtures, central lighting controls, energy use monitoring, carbon dioxide sensors, efficient HVAC equipment, and an on-site wastewater treatment plant that feeds a drip irrigation field. The installation of a closed-loop geothermal chiller/heater system provides the energy efficiency of a chilled water system but saves approximately 850,000 gallons of water a year and eliminates the need for a cooling tower or condensers that require screening.

Architect

Ayers Saint Gross

LEED Facts

Level: Gold
Type: LEED for New Construction
Status: Registered
Click here to view LEED scorecard

LEED® Facts

Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Smith Education Center

Monticello, VA
LEED for New Construction
Registered

  • Category: 
    GOLD
    Rating: 
    42*
  • Category: 
    Sustainable Site
    Rating: 
    7 / 14
  • Category: 
    Water Efficiency
    Rating: 
    4 / 5
  • Category: 
    Energy & Atmosphere
    Rating: 
    8 / 17
  • Category: 
    Materials & Resources
    Rating: 
    5 / 13
  • Category: 
    Indoor Environmental Quality
    Rating: 
    13 / 15
  • Category: 
    Innovation & Design
    Rating: 
    5 / 5

View additional Visitor/Conservation Center and Museum projects

  • This is a unique well field site, but it offered an advantage in terms of heat extraction. We were able to backfill with the local river stone rather than grout. The pipes are essentially set in water moving through the aquifers, providing a much more efficient heat transfer. There is no exterior equipment here—an important consideration for an historic site, in terms of both noise and sightlines. The foundation members felt that geothermal technology was something that Jefferson would have embraced. It’s innovative yet organic in that it optimizes use of the land.

    Todd Garing, PE, LEED AP BD+C
    Vice President, Mueller Associates
  • This is a unique well field site, but it offered an advantage in terms of heat extraction. We were able to backfill with the local river stone rather than grout. The pipes are essentially set in water moving through the aquifers, providing a much more efficient heat transfer. There is no exterior equipment here—an important consideration for an historic site, in terms of both noise and sightlines. The foundation members felt that geothermal technology was something that Jefferson would have embraced. It’s innovative yet organic in that it optimizes use of the land.

    Todd Garing, PE, LEED AP BD+C
    Vice President, Mueller Associates