Advancing Your Mission With a Green Message

Advancing Your Mission With a Green Message

In our previous article, we showed how green funding very often is mission driven. Connecting green strategies and building techniques to mission not only can be a way to attract new funding, it can also grow gifts from funders who take the long view. In the United States today, buildings account for 65 percent of electricity consumption and more than one-third of total energy use. As a result, building owners, architects, engineers, and construction supervisors are looking for ways to reduce energy use and costs, and are incorporating green design techniques into high-performance buildings to maximize their health and economic benefits and minimize their impact on the environment. Museums are in a powerful position to contribute to this trend and to educate people about the benefits of green design. This second installment in our three-part series covers how museums are modeling responsible environmental practices, how green design can reduce your annual operating and life-cycle costs, how going green can be helpful for collecting institutions, and how green practices can extend to other areas of your operations.

Articles in the Greening Your Museum series:

Modeling Green in Capital Construction

For many museums facing capital expansion, the decision to go green is born of an interest in using the project to address community relationships and develop green educational programs. Powerful experiential learning can take place when green strategies are made visible and used to signal the fundamental values of an organization.

The Trustees of Reservations, a Massachusetts-based land conservation organization founded in 1891, oversees 55,000 acres of conservation land and historic landscapes but also owns and manages seven National Register and Landmark properties and numerous important structures ranging from the 18th century homestead of William Cullen Bryant to the Bauhaus-style home of Lawrence and Eleanor Bloedel, modern art and furniture collectors. The organization's first-ever capital project was the Doyle Conservation Center, a research and training facility for staff and volunteer conservation organizations in Massachusetts. It was determined at the outset that "walking the talk" was critical for the organization. As Andrew Kendall, the organization's executive director, says, "Because this building will be used both as an office for the Trustees as well as a resource for conservationists around the state, it was imperative we lead by example and build in an environmentally responsible manner."

Mass Technology's Renewable Energy Trust funded the installation of the photovoltaic panels, which, combined with other strategies, produce annual energy savings of over 60 percent. Moreover, green design techniques in use throughout the center — recycled or renewable materials such as cork and bamboo flooring, composting toilets, low-maintenance indigenous landscaping — are duly noted by nonprofits and community groups that use the facility for retreats and conferences and are subsequently spread by word of mouth. Says Mitch Adams, executive director of the Mass Technology Collaborative, the center is "an outstanding example of renewable energy, high performance building design, and energy efficiency working hand in hand to produce a cleaner, better, less expensive, healthier, and more productive working environment. It's a shining example of green design and construction that can serve as a model for other projects."

Conservation organizations in other parts of the country are likewise pursuing green as a means to advance their education mission. Audubon Societies are in the forefront of the movement, with facilities completed or under way in California, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts. Green buildings such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Philip Merrill Environmental Center (LEED Platinum, the program's highest rating), the Visitor and Administration Building currently under construction (with a LEED Platinum goal) at the Queens (NY) Botanical Garden, and the Appalachian Mountain Club's hospitality facility at Crawford Notch in New Hampshire's White Mountains walk the talk on environmentally sensitive design and construction issues.

Clearly, environmental learning is a natural fit with the green message. When finished, the Brooklyn Children's Museum's new facility will be the centerpiece of the museum's science and environment programs, with the specific goal of engaging children and families in making more informed choices about energy use and promoting inquiry and innovation when thinking about energy issues. Other museums that have completed or embarked on green expansions include the Boston Children's Museum, the Museum of Science in Boston, the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, ECHO at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, and the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History.

Saving Green in Annual Operating Costs

Having a conservation mission or being devoted to children's programming is not a prerequisite for going green. Indeed, many museums already are pursuing green design for the annual operating and life-cycle cost savings it can provide. Did you know the world-famous Getty Museum is LEED certified? And many other museums are incorporating green design into new or existing facilities to improve energy efficiency, enhance air quality, and/or create more pleasant public spaces for their patrons. Indeed for many architects, green design is simply good design.

Connecting reductions in annual operating and life-cycle costs to mission isn't hard when you can argue that the dollars saved on utility bills can be applied to program. One Massachusetts museum spends its entire annual endowment draw-down on its energy bills. That represents significant scramble on the part of the director and his development staff to raise replacement funds every year. Now faced with planning for a capital expansion, energy efficiency has become an important planning criterion. Another East Coast museum has discovered that several design elements incorporated into a new wing created climate-control challenges that leave the building's HVAC systems hard-pressed to keep up — to the tune of $500,000 in annual energy costs (or $10 a square foot, when the average for collecting institutions with green design in place is $3.50 to $5.00 a square foot). Not surprisingly, the institution is now considering a number of green measures to help mitigate those costs.

Green and Collections Care

Curiously, we asked one museum director facing a capital expansion whether she planned to integrate green strategies into the building's design, only to have her exclaim, "No, we have climate control standards to maintain!" Apparently, she hadn't heard that the days of patched-together geodesic domes with inefficient solar panels are long gone. Today's green technologies are extremely sophisticated, and have proved themselves in function-critical facilities such as labs and hospitals. For museums that collect, preserve, and interpret objects, ensuring climate control is a huge operating expense — and costs keeps rising. The good news is that green design strategies can contribute in ways both large and small to collection care through energy cost savings, built-in system redundancies, and improved air quality.

For example, displacement ventilation systems reduce particulates in the air and require less energy. Micro-environments such as case work or room-with-in rooms that segregate objects into smaller spaces are another strategy. Smart lighting systems can balance artificial light with natural light to create gallery spaces that are better for viewing objects and result in additional reductions in energy costs. The key is design integration: Architectural and engineering design should consider lighting in tandem with variations in the facility's occupancy load. A blockbuster exhibition opening will require extra lighting and lots of cool air to maintain the proper room temperature; the same space on a slow morning with just a few people on hand will have different requirements. Your design team should be able to model energy requirements in a variety of situations to ensure maximum comfort for people and objects while reducing your costs.

Green and Earned Income Functions

Ancillary operations can be another opportunity to showcase a positive environmental message. The California Academy of Sciences views their caf� as a programmatic area and have had half a dozen for-profit vendors express interest in operating it in a green manner. Topped with a "living" roof and filled with energy-saving technologies, "our entire building will serve as an exhibit about sustainability," says the academy's executive director, Patrick Kociolek. "We hope our restaurant will extend that message, showcasing the value of eating locally, sustainably harvested foods.

"Recycle, Reuse, and Reduce" is a mantra of environmentalists for a reason. And it really isn't that difficult to incorporate it into your retail operations. Use washable plates, utensils, cups, and napkins in your cafeteria and restaurant facilities. Studies show that the water and energy used to wash those items creates less environmental impact than producing and disposing of paper plates and plastic utensils. No staff to wash all that stuff? Buy compostable cutlery and plates. But don't stop there. Serve environmentally friendly food that's locally grown and harvested, instead of products shipped halfway around the world. For meat items on the menu, serve smaller portions. Pay attention to what fish you serve. Feature recycled, local, and/or fair-trade items. Throughout your operations, be ruthless about reducing packaging. And be sure to celebrate your green actions through signage and your Web site. Be proud about the choices you have made as an institution. After all, you're doing your part to leave a better world for our kids and grandkids!

In the third and final article in our series, we'll look at how you can promote the value of "green" to your board and staff. In the meantime, we hope the following list of resources will provide you with additional food for thought.

More Green Resources

The nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council originated the LEED Program (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), a voluntary rating system for green buildings, and has a comprehensive Web site filled with useful documents designed to help you walk your stakeholders and constituents through the green design process.

The GreenRoundtable, an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote healthy, efficient, and sustainable development and building projects through strategic outreach, education, policy advocacy, and technical assistance, strives to mainstream the "green revolution" — ultimately making itself obsolete.

Established in 1982 by Amory and L. Hunter Lovins, the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute works to fosters the efficient and restorative use of resources to make the world more secure, just, prosperous, and life-sustaining.

The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association works to facilitate the widespread adoption and use of sustainable energy by providing support to industry professionals and by educating and motivating consumers to learn about, ask for, and adopt sustainable energy and green-building practices.

Offered by the North American Association for Environmental Education, EE-Link ~ Environmental Education on the Internet is a vast repository of information and links for students, teachers, and professionals interested in K-12 environmental education.

Sponsored by the Madison (WI) Children's Museum, is a resource for museum exhibit designers and fabricators interested in creating exhibits and environments that support healthy spaces and a healthier future for kids and the environment.

The Green Hotels Association encourages, promotes, and supports the "greening" of the lodging industry to reduce operating costs as well as the hotel's impact on the environment.

Last but not least, the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Conventions promotes environmental best practices for large conventions and works to establish a legacy of environmental, energy, water, transportation, and waste management practices for urban living and commerce.

The sustainable nonprofit

January 10, 2020