New Kelley Farm Visitor Center will be a LEED Gold and B3 Sustainable Building

The Minnesota Historical Society will utilize USGBC’s LEED Green Building Design and Construction Certification system as a way to support the mission of the Oliver Kelley Farm:

“...interpret the history of family farms, Kelley Family, and MN’s agriculture past, present and future to nurture an understanding of where our food comes from and agriculture’s image on our world...”

LEED supports this by guiding an environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable infrastructure to deliver this outcome.  It is also responsible for significant market transformation in sustainable building, and is often recognized by general audiences as well as those in the construction industry.  In particular, the team is targeting Gold certification (of Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels).  

Sustainability Feature in Latest Issue of Museum

The latest July / August 2014 issue of Museum features the white paper on sustainability standards developed by AAM's PIC-Green (American Alliance of Museum's Professional Network on Green Museums).  The feature is an excerpt from the full white paper that describes the challenges of museum sustainbility and the current state of standards in the wider sustainability field.  

Minnesota Historical Society's sustainability program is one of the case studies referenced in the white paper for our approach that is "rooted in science and data."

Sustainability Reporting Guidelines

During the past few weeks of my internship at MHS I have begun to draw parallels between how MHS operates compared to the University of Minnesota, my other place of employment. Working in two different office settings has allowed me to see how both institutions are similar and different. A parallel that relates directly to my work are the sustainability initiatives and engagement campaigns at both institutions. Having been at the U for 5 years I have grown accustomed to their campaigns, almost forgetting the signs to turn off the light even exist.

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!

Energy Savings in Historic Sites: The Importance of Small Sites

While the map of the overall GHG emissions shows relative priority should go to the largest sites in the urban areas, there is more to draw from the data. Analyzing the GHG emissions further, and incorporating the size of the building as well as occupancy helps us to discover the importance of small sites in an organization-wide sustainability effort that spans many geographically and historically diverse sites.

One of the advantages of quantifying sustainability is the ability to benchmark, or compare across buildings or sites. When looking at greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the Minnesota Historical Society’s 26 historic sites, you can quickly see the relative environmental impacts of each site. The map below shows both the GHG emissions and locations of 19 sites included in the fiscal year 2010 sustainability audit.

The Origins of the More for the Mission Campaign

The More for the Mission campaign centers around the institutional sustainability program at the Minnesota Historical Society.  Recently, we have hit the 2 year milestone for the program, and the MHS Green Team has been working hard to not only track our sustianability efforts, but also to implement strategies that will save the institution money as well as reduce our environmental impacts. 

The More for the Mission campaign helps the MHS achieve it's mission by controlling overhead costs. (Source: MHS Green Team)

However, as a history organization, we haven't really taken the time to share our history during these last 2 years.  As such, this week's blog post looks at the origins of the MHS Green Team, the sustainability vision, and the significance of sustainability on our mission.

Going Paperless?

In our own project, we've been struggling with the use of paper.  Our full technical report, which is about 500+ pages, has been electronically distributed to almost anyone it might impact.  We also have a summary document that is a scant 20 pages, double-sided, which does get printed out quite a few times for distribution.  While energy savings already seems to come naturally to many people, saving paper can be a huge cultural change.  I, myself, prefer to read large documents from a hard-copy print-out, rather than on a bright computer screen.  E-ink technology does help the comfort level of digital reading, but there are still other barriers.  The concept of going paper-less has come up many times, and if we reduce the question to only the environmental impact of electricity use from digital devices versus reduced paper consumption, it becomes a little simpler than the question of cultural change.  However, this is still a tricky question in that the scope and assumptions of usage will greatly change the conclusions.   (Read more...)

Electric Vehicles vs Gasoline Vehicles: A Cost and Emissions Comparison *edited*

(corrections italicized)

With release of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) like the Chevy Volt, and all electric vehicles (EVs) like the Nissan Leaf, and the push from Federal and local sources to put up more electric vehicle charging stations, there has been a lot of excitement about cars that will free us from gasoline dependence . Even further, the commercials for the PHEVs and EVs seem to suggest that these vehicles will solve climate change. In Leaf commercial below, a polar bear that has lost its home in the arctic due to global warming wanders into civilization, and hugs a man who drives the new Leaf, implying the electric vehicle helps reduce climate change.   Let's test this assertion by calculating both cost and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions differences between electric vehicles, hybrids, and gasoline vehicles.   


Building Certifications and LEED

One of the things about sustainability is the absolute overload of information regarding what is green, sustainable, healthy, natural, and so forth. It seems that despite how common the terms have become, there is still a lot of confusion surrounding sustainability. The same is true as well for buildings. When thinking about a renovation, addition, or new building, there is a lot of confusing material out there. Should you use FSC wood or SFI wood? Is recycled content better, or all natural formaldehyde-free better?

While there is a lot of confusion, in the last few years, one certification system has gotten a significant amount of market transformation. LEED, a certification system developed by the US Green Building Council, standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Development of the program started in 1994, and has since become one of the more popular green building certification systems in the U.S. and the world.

LEED impacts logo


The Perils of Quantification

Quantification can be a misleading task. When it comes to sustainability, quantifying the complex issues surrounding the environment can be even more difficult. For example, figures on excess nutrients in water bodies are very straightforward, but it is only one indicator of the health of a complex ecosystem. Any indicator taken alone, without context, can be misleading.