Monthly Archives: April 2014

What does Museum Sustainability look like? (2/2)


Upon walking into the lobby of the museum, one would easily assume that the ample photo 2sunlight from the window walls may provide sufficient lighting to the museum interior.  However the majority of lighting energy consumed does not come from the areas, but rather the surrounding galleries where sunlight does not reach.

Lighting is one of the biggest sources of energy consumption in the art museum.  However even though monthly electricity bills can boast up to $270,000 each month, the institution has been slow to conduct lighting retrofits for a number of reasons.

According to Vasquez, one of the largest concerns of LED lighting has been throw distance, which is how far light can reach from it’s source.  Although LEDs produce more intense light for less energy, many models do not have the spotlight effect that make gives the artwork optimum color and experience.

In the galleries, there are only two types of lightbulbs, with warming and cooling filters attached based on aesthetic recommendations from each gallery’s curator.

However, lighting retrofits for museums can also be realized by other ways.  For instance, many museums include back offices, storage areas, and corridors that do not need the color-sensitive lighting required by displaying artworks.

On-Site Energy Generation

Currently, the museum has been considering the possibility of installing a long-term energy solution with an on-site cogeneration facility.

CoGeneration Turbine.

The primary motivation behind this is to wean the museum off its dependence on ConEd steam, which is required to heat the building.  Not only is this steam expensive, but is also corrosive to the building’s pipe infrastructure due to lack of filtration of corrosive oxygen in the steam.  Furthermore since Hurricane Sandy, New York City has set priorities for steam delivery in case of emergency, acknowledging that there may be future occurances when steam is not available to everybody.

The possible closure of Indian Point nuclear energy plant in Upstate New York, which currently provides nearly 40% of New York City’s energy, is also a strong motivation for the museum to adopt alternative energy sources.

John explains that if Indian Point closes, all electricity consumers in New York would likely have to pay higher prices for energy or seek alternative resources.

“Instead of being a victim, we can be a winner”, John says of the utilization of local generation.

Inspired by a Capstone Microturbines, which operate like jet engines, Vasquez hopes that the future on-site generation at the museum will take advantage of generated heat for other uses instead of for lift.  Several of these uses include using thermal byproduct to heat up domestic hot water in the building, both for restroom use, kitchen use, and with HVAC systems.

Environmental Responsibility

When asked what was the most fulfilling part of his job, John took a moment of pause, then with a calm smile described his ritual morning ritual of arriving to work.  “I come in every day at 7AM to make sure everything is running smoothly and we’re ready to open”, he says.  “Sometimes I stand in front of works such as a Monet or Matisse before there is anyone in the museum”, he says, “and feel a sense of responsibility”.

“Energy for us is a double-edge source.  We are finding ways to save energy but not at the expense of environmental conditions for the art”.

What does Museum Sustainability look like? (1/2)


In a exclusive interview, John V.*  Director of Facilities at the a renown art museum in Manhattan, New York provides the an in-depth look at the existing operating systems and outlook to the future of museum sustainability.

photo 1

Prior to working for the museum, John worked in facilities management on university campuses and academic institutions for more than 30 years.  Currently at the museum, the facility veteran’s responsibilities include day-to-day maintenance of mechanical systems, upkeep of climate controls, and leading capital projects for the museum’s long-term sustainability.

Museum Climate Control

According to John, the works of art housed at the museum are incredibly climate-sensitive.  For an average commercial or residential, it is sufficient to have a single air handler, or filtration system, to produce clean breathable air.  However the stringent conditions at the museum require the building to have two complete air handling units.

“Imagine mold spores building up on a Picasso or Matisse”, John says, “Particulates include pollen, dirt, dust, and mold and can come from anywhere, including from under your shoes”.

Additionally, keeping the filters clean is of high priority, both for the cleanliness of the air as well as for making sure machines are running optimally.  Without frequent replacement of new filters, residue can cause blockades on the machinery, impacting both air quality as well as power to run the machines.

However arguably the most important environmental monitoring taking place in art museums is with temperature and humidity control.  John says that the museum must always follow the “70/50 Rule”, which requires 70 degrees F and 50% relative humidity at all times.  This is because unlike people who can tolerate mild temperature swings inside buildings through the months, John describes, works such as paintings are much more sensitive. For example, changes in humidity will cause the wooden panels of paintings to expand and contract, which can result in cracks and unrepairable damage on the works.

According to John, each museum visitor adds heat and moisture to the space, and thus needed to be factored into equation as well.  For this reason, museums require floor-by-floor temperature monitoring to ensure that paintings in each gallery are maintained in optimal conditions at all times.

 Technology in Museums: BMS

The 24/7 operations of the museum’s climate change significant energy, man-power, and controls.  Since these conditions need to be consistently met, a certain amount of automation is required in addition to the eyes of the facilities team.

BMS, or building management systems, are responsible for this job and are software suites that monitor and control environmental conditions for commercial buildings and museums alike .

The center of this building is a tall, open atrium around which the museum’s galleries are built.  Because of this single space, monitoring environmental conditions with temperature and humidity sensors is not only important, but a necessity in preserving the works and maintaining comfortable conditions for the museum visitors.

According to John, any system used by a museum of this scale needs to be “smart…nimble… and should be able to respond to change quickly”.

The Truth About Travel: What’s Next?

Topas Ecolodge in Vietnam. Courtesy of David McKelvey/ Flickr Creative Commons

Topas Ecolodge in Vietnam. Courtesy of David McKelvey/ Flickr Creative Commons

Ecotourism is a phenomenon that has grown substantially in the last thirty years. It has reached countries all around the world from Central and South America to Asia. And with its growth has come a growing interest in whether or not ecotourism is as successful as it is thought to be.

Ecotourism grew from being just about protection of the environment to include protection of the local communities. But there has been the potential of actually doing more harm than good in that sense. A case study by Mike Stone and Geoffrey Wall was done on ecotourism in Hainan, China, where a park intended for conservation was built. According to their study, “at least one quarter of residents surveyed indicated that the park has had no effect or only negative effects (mainly in terms of lost jobs and land) on their lives.” The residents tend to be the ones that suffer when ecotourism becomes more prominent in the community, even if it is intended to help them. Continue reading

Environmental Economics – It All Begins At Home

Photography by KevinZim. Countless communities who once relied on certain ecological services such as fisheries or forestries have been decimated.

Everywhere, the earth is changing. As a result, climate change, environmental degradation, and global warming appear at once to be enormously overwhelmingly, global concerns – and they are. Environmental affairs know no boundaries, no boarders, no race, no gender, no property, and no currency. At a press conference presenting the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, boldly stated that, “Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change.”

Without a doubt, big moves will be needed on national and international scales in order to prevent and adapt to global climate change. Properly formed legislation is essential, as is the strong leadership of public figures and powerful national and multi-national organizations. Jedediah Purdy, a Professor of Law at Duke University, notes that one way out of the situation is with “extraordinary politics: politics that goes beyond the usual interest-swaping and sets new commitments for the country and the world.” The other way out, which he believes more likely and yet not as productive, will be extraordinary technological developments in the areas of renewable energy and geo-engineering.

The amount of work that needs to be done in order to fully deal with anthropogenic climate change and global warming can at times feel overwhelming and impossible to accomplish.

Sally Weintrobe, a practicing psychoanalyst, in her piece entitled “The Difficult Problem of Anxiety in Thinking About Climate Change,” explains that, “we are trying, unsuccessfully, to manage contrary internal positions within our psyches…where we simultaneously feel no guilt and it is the other person/nation/corporation who is to blame and, on the other hand, where we feel monstrously guilty and to be blamed.” In this statement, Weintrobe reveals that all environmental issues are simultaneously enormous, global calamities, and very personal and sentimental individual crises.

How to tackle these huge issues? Where to begin?

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Turbulence for Turbines—Gone with the Prospect for Wind?

Vacationing at the beach always provokes amazing sensory experiences. Everything about lounging in the sand soaking up sunshine, hearing waves crash along the shore, feeling a gentle breeze, and watching a sunset infused with citrus colors relaxes the mind, body, and soul. Now picture an arc of sparkling white turbines dotting the horizon and reflecting the setting sun, their blades twirling as waves tumble below. The image in itself is striking, made only more majestic by the prospect of a clean energy future. The ability to build turbines that each produce 6 megawatts of clean energy in offshore locations seems unreal. Wind capturing technology has made incredible strides since grain-grinding mills first became widespread, but something is holding it back from reaching its potential.

offshore turbines at sunset

“Row Of Turbine Windmills Offshore At Sunset,” Desktop Nexus 2014

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