For the majority of buildings there are usually improvements which can be made to improve their energy efficiency and make them more environmentally and financially sustainable. Becoming mindful of how much energy a building consumes in its day-to-day lighting, heating, cooling, and water use as well as where that energy comes from, can transform the operations and functions of a building. There is a range of actions that organisations can take, covering simple steps to more ambitious changes. Given that museums can often be historic, spacious buildings that require significant amounts of energy for operations such as collections management, there is a unique opportunity to act in reducing the sector’s carbon footprint whilst bringing down your organisations running costs.
Improving the energy performance of your building can have multiple benefits including reducing carbon emissions, cutting down on fuel consumption and bills as well as providing a more comfortable thermal environment and improved indoor air quality.
When undertaking efforts to improve the energy performance it’s important to work with the natural properties of the building and be sympathetic to the character and construction of the building. For example, natural ventilation through windows, chimneys, vents etc helps to circulate air and water vapour dispersed and reduce decay and mould build up. Consider the age and type of your building also as historic, traditional and modern buildings will all have different characteristics with different materials respectively.
A balance needs to be struck between increased energy performance of the building and cost to the owner as well as impact on the building if it is listed or historical. An approach that aims for what the building and organisation can reasonably take should be used, rather than aim for specific value reduction.
Issues to consider
If you’re undertaking any building projects to become more environmentally friendly, there are several issues that are worth considering before starting work. This can be:
- If the project is needed and can improve the energy performance of the building by reducing consumption, cost and/or carbon emissions.
- Explore using new materials that are sustainable as possible or recycled etc.
- Consider how to minimise any waste produced and what is done with any waste materials that are produced- can they be recycled, sold second hand, or ensure that they are disposed of appropriately.
- Projects which have a longer lifespan/expected duration are more sustainable than something which needs to be replaced regularly or quickly.
- Can existing structures be upgraded or improved to be more sustainable rather than entirely replaced with something new.
- Think about the impact the change will have on staff, visitor, volunteer behaviour and if any communications about the project are required.
- Is this project part of any wider sustainability/environmental work, strategy, or policy for the organisation.
- Consider the impact any changes you undertake, particularly if there are significant, will have on your EPC (Energy Performance Certificate).
If you want to make changes to your building to improve its energy efficiency but are unsure where to start, there are external organisations such as energy providers that can conduct energy audits for your building. This helps to determine where most energy is being wasted, what is consuming the most and what changes can be made to improve the issue. Similarly, any work can and in some cases should only, be carried out in consultation with experts such as engineers, electricians etc.
More information on general energy saving in buildings can be found here: