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My Energy Story: Measuring and Reducing Home Energy Usage

LED lights with our dining room hutchAs I mentioned in a previous blog post, my partner and I are relatively new homeowners; we’ve lived in our 1914 story-and-a-half South Minneapolis bungalow for about a year and a half.  Given that we’ve both worked in the energy efficiency field, we’re pretty cognizant of our energy usage, and try our best to walk the talk when it comes to conservation.  But, as the Minnesota Historical Society knows well, older buildings pose a number of challenges for achieving efficiency, as well as a number of opportunities. We love the original woodwork in our house, the built-in dining room buffet, and the colonnade archway that separates the living room from the dining room.  The house tells a story of the growth and development of South Minneapolis in the early 20th century, of the old-growth lumber that was used in the construction (that would be quite expensive and hard to find today), and the high quality, solidly built homes that characterized the aesthetic of that era.  


Commuter Challenge Follow-up

Last week we held a kick-off event and resource fair for the More for the Mission Commuter Challenge.  The event was intended to encourage MHS staff to sign up for the Commuter Challenge- a pledge to try taking the bus or train, bicycling, carpooling, walking, teleworking or vanpooling to work instead of driving alone at least once between now and June 30th.  Over 65 staff, volunteers and interns signed up for the Challenge at the event, a 20% increase in participation from last year!  Those who signed up at the event were entered to win some door prizes, including $10 Go-To passes and a laminated Twin Cities bike route map ($12 value).  All those staff who took the pledge (in person or online) will also be entered into the Commuter Challenge-sponsored prize drawing.

The event featured resources from St. Paul Smart Trips, a nonprofit organization that provides information and resources about transportation options in and around St. Paul.  Staff had a chance to ask questions about potential commuting routes and pick up helpful resources such as transit, skyway and bike path maps.  Shengyin also had a table with updates about the More for the Mission campaign, which is on track to reduce the MN Historical Society's greenhouse gas emissions by 1.9 million kg.  That is equivalent to removing the annual emissions from 380 cars and saves the organization a five year total of $1.7 million.  


MHS Commuter Challenge

Minnesota Historical Society Commuter Challenge Kick-off and Resource Fair!

WHEN: Wednesday, April 24th from 8:00-10:00 a.m.

WHERE: MN History Center, Staff Lounge

Join the Minnesota Historical Society's 2013 Commuter Challenge! At the kick-off event on April 24th you'll learn about sustainable transportation options, enjoy free food and coffee, and have a chance to win prizes when you sign up to take the Commuter Challenge!

Remember to fill out our simple online poll with the zip code where you commute from.  We'll use that information anonymously to map out the distances MHS staff are commuting.


Minnesota History Center: Most Improved State Building on the Capitol Complex!

Water bottle filling station on the 4th floor

In the few weeks I’ve been working in the MN History Center building so far, I’ve noticed some of the visible things that are helping to reduce resource use and encourage sustainable behavior- like the water bottle filling stations that make it easy to bring your own reusable bottle rather than a disposable plastic bottle and the junk mail reduction campaign posters. I was interested in hearing more about some of the behind-the-scenes (or in-the-mechanical-room) actions that are resulting in such impressive savings throughout the MHS. Last week I talked with Karen Nichols, Facilities Manager here at the MN History Center and Green Team member, to learn about initiatives in the building to save energy, water and waste.

Shortly after I sat down, Karen proudly shared with me that the MN History Center has seen the biggest savings of any building in the State Capitol Complex. Part of the impetus for making these building improvements was based on an Executive Order from the Governor, to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent in state facilities. The energy consumption for all buildings in the Capitol complex is tracked through the State of Minnesota Plant Management Division at the Department of Administration. Based on those numbers, the Minnesota History Center has seen a nearly 60% savings in energy usage over the past 6 years, significantly more than other state facilities and above and beyond the goal of the Executive Order (1). This is especially significant given that in 2005 the History Center was the Capitol Complex building with the highest total energy use.


Welcome to our new Sustainability Intern!

We are very lucky to have Julia Eagles join our sustainability team this spring. She is currently a graduate student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the U and will be providing her skills to help us communicate our sustainability program and its associated metrics. Below she has written a brief narrative about herself, so be sure to stop by the intern workstation area on level 4 to welcome her and introduce yourselves. Welcome, Julia!
-Shengyin Xu

Hi everyone! My name is Julia Eagles and I am the new Sustainability Intern here at the Minnesota Historical Society. As part of my internship this spring I’ll be blogging here, producing information graphics and other visual communications about the More for the Mission campaign and helping to plan events. I hope through this position to increase my (and hopefully your) awareness of sustainability implementation and measurement, particularly in the context of the museum and historic sites. I’m excited to be joining the MHS team, especially in supporting efforts to make the Historical Society more sustainable! Since I’ll be posting here pretty regularly this spring, I thought I would tell you a little bit more about myself and how I got here.


More for the Mission and Minnesota's Energy Evolution

Thanks to those of you who attended the More for the Mission and Minnesota's Energy Evolution event on December 11, 2012.  Despite the icy roads, we had a good turn-out, and a great discussion afterwards. 

For those that you that may have missed the event, or that would like to rewatch the lectures, below is the recording of all the presentations - an introduction to the More for the Mission program at the MHS, an introduction to Center for Energy and the Environment (CEE), Minnesota's Energy Evolution, and a case study of the Minnesota History Center's energy efficiency efforts.


Minnesota History Center: Existing Building Commissioning

This guest blog post is by Angela Vreeland and Chris Plum from Center for Energy and Environment (CEE). Angela is a project engineer for the Public Buildings Enhanced Energy Efficiency Program (PBEEEP).  Chris is a Program Manager at CEE and is the Program Manager of the State Government Public Buildings Energy Efficiency Enhancement Program (State PBEEEP). CEE will be presenting on the Evolution of Energy in Minnesota at the More for the Mission event on December 11, 2012.  To find out more and register for the More for the Mission event, re-visit this blog post

Minnesota History Center

The Minnesota History Center is a relatively new building which is primarily used as a museum, with public areas, exhibition spaces, classrooms, storage spaces for valuable artifacts, a library and conservation laboratories. Several hundred thousand people visit the History Center every year, about half of them in school groups. The building was built to the Minnesota Building Code and its energy use of 160 kBtu/square foot (about $2 per square foot) was typical of many museums. It was nonetheless noteworthy in 2005 as the building on the capitol complex with the highest total energy use. Not only is that no longer true, but the building now uses the same amount of energy as an average building in the Capitol complex and less than many office buildings in the Upper Midwest.

What did the staff that manages the state’s buildings (the Division of Plant Management in the Department of Administration) do to achieve these impressive results?  Read more...


Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change - EDITED

We were given the opportunity to speak at the 2012 Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change conference, this week in Sacramento, California. The conference is extremely timely, as recent cases of extreme weather that are now being attributed by many mainstream media sources as possible proof of climate change, such as in Bloomberg Businessweek’s cover article – “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”

Perhaps it was the nice weather in Sacramento, an ideal sunny 60s during the day, but the atmosphere at the conference was much less gloomy than the article, but no less important in the message. Over 700 professionals, scientists from many fields, and even utility companies gathered at the event to discuss new research and practices on energy-savings strategies that involve behavioral change. As our More for the Mission campaign develops, this conference was a great opportunity to hear other case studies, and research on how best to enact lasting change towards energy reductions. In particular, even the panel that we presented and spoke on focused on so many different approaches and scales of energy-efficiency, it was hard not to think of the potential for our organization and the More for the Mission project. 


SPECIAL EVENT: Minnesota’s Energy Evolution

The Minnesota Historical Society invites you to join distinguished researchers from the Center for Energy and the Environment (CEE) for an exciting presentation reviewing Minnesota’s Energy Evolution in a reception and lecture, December 11, 2012 from 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM at the Minnesota History Center.

This engaging event will review the history of energy in Minnesota, highlighting the milestones, people, and energy sources used over the years. The presentation includes a dynamic Energy Timeline, outlining our energy past and leading us to envision our energy future.

Come early to discuss Minnesota’s energy past and future with MHS members, energy professionals, energy scholars, and energy policy analysts. Add your voice to the conversation over free refreshments.

This event is sponsored by The Minnesota Historical Society’s sustainability program More for the Mission, which is actively engaged at all of our sites in saving energy, reducing costs, and improving efficiencies.


Do you track sustainability?

Do you track sustainability in a museum or historic site?  The American Alliance of Museums' PIC-Green would like to find out more about what museums are using to implement sustainability in their operations and buildings. PIC-Green is a professional interest committee within the American Alliance of Museums that aims to establish museums as leaders in environmental stewardship and sustainability through education, advocacy, and service.

Please fill out this survey and share your experience tracking sustainability performance in your museums. This may include formal certifications, like LEED, or other sustainability metrics, like carbon footprints. We'd love to hear from in-house sustainability officers, consultants, or design professionals that have worked in museums. All scales of museums are welcome - from the small historic house to a large institution!