Remembering the Past

This piece is Rosaura Ramo’s last blog post for our Institutional Sustainability blog. She is currently studying Architecture and Art at the University of Minnesota, where she will be a junior this year. This post is inspired by a lecture from one of her fall classes, Introduction to Heritage Preservation, taught by Greg Donofrio. Thanks and good luck to our great summer intern!

Heritage preservation is a way in which way we preserve the past. While the term is mostly defined as preserving or restoring buildings and monuments of the past, the most important part is keeping that moment in history alive. To remember why we preserved such object or building gives the community understanding of its significance in history. It also gives future generations a sense of of their own history and connection to their community.

Geothermal Energy

The need for sustainable energy solutions is a concern that is brought up frequently for the United States. President Obama expressed his desire for more clean energy projects home while campaigning in Nevada. One of the options that he discussed was geothermal energy. Nevada is currently working with geothermal energy and has realized the benefits of clean energy and lower utility costs. 

Minnesota Energy Timeline


Sustainability in the 2012 Olympics

Lighting Choices Part 1 of 3: Basic Light Types

Given the upcoming lighting efficiency upgrade project at the History Center, a post on lighting has been well overdue. Not only is it important to understand the lighting project here in one of our largest buildings, but there can be many lessons to take home from the project.

While it may not have as large an impact as heating or cooling loads, reducing lighting loads is much more tangible for many of us. For example, turning off lights, either by sensor or by switch is much more straightforward than demand-based heating controls. By visibility alone, it is easier to remember to simply turn off a light fixture when leaving the house, even without occupancy sensors. Further, increasing lighting efficiency is also much simpler. There are options for replacing bulbs, retrofitting fixtures, or new fixtures. These upgrades can usually be found at most consumer hardware stores, and they tend to be an affordable option compared to new appliances or heating and cooling equipment. However, there are many nuances to lighting. It is not only purely functional, but creates many spatial and environmental characteristics that can enhance or detract from a space.

In the first of a three part lighting series, we'll discuss basic elements of lighting - types of bulbs and fixtures, and characteristics of each.

Mix of used halogen bulbs from Mill City Museum. (Photo by S. Xu)

Power from the Waves

As we continue to grow in population and continue to use more than is necessary, resources will eventually run out. Engineers and scientists are constantly looking for other methods of creating energy. Instead of continuing to use resources that contaminate our environment, there are ways of harnessing the very forces that are part of our environment. Wind and solar power are very popular forms of renewable energy today. In addition, engineers and scientists have even begun using the power of the ocean, using the very waves themselves to create the energy needed in today’s society. Several methods have been developed to capture wave energy. One of the concepts that have been presented is very similar to swimming pool wave machine like the one used in Valleyfair, here in Minnesota.

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Designing for the Enivornment

Sustainability is an issue that has been brought to our attention a lot in recent years. When thinking about the topic it’s easier to break it down into components. The first part is more concerned with the preservation of the natural environment while the other focuses on the energy that is consumed and wasted. Energy is consumed in several ways, yet cost is most noticeable when it pertains to our homes and the buildings we use. One concept that has taken a step in the progression of sustainability is the idea of designing with the landscape so as to protect the environment while lowering our energy use and costs. 

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Heritage 2012 Conference Highlights

Having just returned from the Heritage 2012 Conference in Porto, Portugal, here are some of the highlights from the trip... (read more)

  • Conference had a great range of topics, with sessions on heritage and governance, heritage and society, heritage and environment, heritage and economics, heritage and culture, and heritage and education. 
  • The special session on preservation of historic buildings was particularly interesting, with new topics such as millimeter wave technology for disinfecting historic structures and new methods of grout injection.
  • The conference organized a number of social events following the sessions, including tours of the city, traditional celebrations for St. John's, and boat tours of the river.
  • Made connections with many people working on research on sustainability and heritage, including professors and practitioners from Spain, Australia, Canada, and the UK. 
  • Our presentation was well received and sparked interesting conversations about short-term and long-term options for sustainability in heritage buildings. 

More information to come, or you can contact me -

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