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Grounds for Sculpture earns award for environmental sustainability


Grounds For Sculpture’s (GFS) Seward Johnson Center for the Arts (SJCA) in Hamilton, N.J., has achieved LEED Gold certification, marking seminal and groundbreaking milestones for the institution both globally and in New Jersey.

The award represents the first Public Assembly project in the world that is certified to LEEDv4.1 standards. It is also the first certified LEEDv4.1 project in New Jersey.

The LEEDv4.1 standard is currently the most rigorous green building rating system in the world, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

GFS’s LEED certification is the culmination of the institution’s focus on environmental sustainability championed by Barry Zhang, member of GFS Board of Trustees and CEO and founder of Princetel.

“GFS prides itself on positively impacting the community through its educational programs and by operating sustainably. LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) is all about energy conservation, clean environment, and human experience,” said Zhang.

“Being designated as a LEED Gold project demonstrates that we are energy and water efficient, we waste little and recycle well, we live close to where we work, and we’ve created a comfortable work environment for ourselves and our visitors.”

Among the projects undertaken toward LEED certification, GFS implemented numerous energy-savings measures to minimize the facility’s carbon footprint to the greatest extent possible.

Water requirements can be remarkable for a 42-acre garden that hosts upward of 250,000 visitors per year. GFS features a rainwater management system that collects rain and channels it into ponds on the property. This water is then used to help maintain the diverse, native and exotic flora on the grounds. Paved surfaces are made of permeable materials and a system of gravel beds filter rain water and return it to the local aquifer.

To reduce paper use, electronic messaging, signage and ticketing systems were implemented. Scheduling visits online ahead of time leads to shorter lines and a seamless guest experience. A digital map is in development and will replace the printed version. These changes streamline the visitor experience, creating both efficiency and convenience.

Biodegradable café eco-ware and sustainable office supplies are now standard at SJCA, while environmentally safe products are used to clean the facility and low-emitting paints and finishes are employed for a healthier environment inside the building.

Recycling is provided throughout the facility for staff and guests alike, and staff measure the waste output of the facility to ensure goals continue to be met. LED lightbulbs have replaced all incandescent bulbs, and timers throughout the park and HVAC night setbacks are set at the minimum.

“GFS was created to bring communities together around art and nature. Sited on the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds, we have a long history of adaptive reuse – from our galleries and artist studios which once housed fairgrounds exhibitions to the many “rescue” trees from abandoned nurseries. We are proud to be a global and statewide leader in environmental sustainability,” says Gary Garrido Schneider, executive director of Grounds For Sculpture.

This award marks several years’ work toward sustainability targets. The organization continues to examine ways to further optimize energy and water usage, minimize waste and maximize recycling across its campus.

Future initiatives include implementation of a solar installation across the 75,000-square-foot roof of the SJCA, anticipated to reduce electricity costs by approximately 90 percent.

Additionally, GFS has partnered with GREENCROWN Energy Advisors and Direct Energy to ensure that 100 percent of the power consumed by GFS/TSJA comes from renewable sources. This will be the equivalent of taking approximately 100 U.S. homes off the electric grid.

For information on GFS, visit