The Field Museum Achieves LEED Gold

Chicago’s Field Museum is one of the world’s largest natural history museums and now one of just two such institutions in the nation to earn LEED-EB O+M Gold certification. The museum had twice obtained LEED ID+C Gold for its Conservation Hall and again for the 3D theater; this rating for the property as a whole further demonstrates The Field’s commitment to improve building efficiencies.

Field Museum Chicago“The Field Museum [previously] has long held sustainability as core to our mission and culture, so achieving LEED certification was a priority for us. We made huge strides over the past two years and are proud to share the results with our visitors,” said Richard Lariviere, Field Museum President and CEO.

While involved with conservation efforts worldwide, the latest LEED certification advances the Museum’s goals at home: to increase on-site renewable energy generation while driving down overall energy use. Much of the work over the past two years centered on assessing indoor air quality for both exhibition space and sensitive artifact storage, as well as improving energy and water tracking, upgrading lighting and controls and surveying the Museum’s landscaping.

Chicago-based nonprofit Delta Institute assisted The Field Museum in gaining its LEED certification. “We are proud to have helped The Field Museum reach this milestone,” said Jean Pogge, Delta Institute CEO. “While the age, unique infrastructure and sheer size of the building presented a number of challenges, it’s exciting to see the Field establish itself as a sustainability leader among museums worldwide.”

Delta Institute began working with The Field in 2013 on comprehensive sustainability improvements, beginning with assessments of the building’s energy and waste infrastructure and operations protocol. Greening the museum grounds was based on a range of plans and actions implemented over that time.

traps_smallA comprehensive lighting audit identified almost 20,000 fixtures in the Museum, many of which still have inefficient incandescent bulbs. Approximately 30% of those have been replaced with higher efficiency LED lights with a goal of replacing all exhibit and spot lighting with LED fixtures.

The Field Museum currently offsets 100% of its electricity and natural gas use with Green-E certified Renewable Energy Credits and carbon offsets. They are also pursuing an expansion of a roof-top solar array that doubles current capacity to over 318 kilowatts.

Waste reduction was a keystone to the museum’s improved operations. Composting at on-site restaurants means that over a third of consumable waste within the museum is diverted from landfills. The Museum is also implementing a complete landscaping redesign on the three-acre property, prioritizing biodiversity, native species and stormwater mitigation infrastructure.

Originally established in 1893 as part of the World’s Columbian Exposition, The Field Museum was reopened in its current location in 1921. Since that time, many additions and changes have been made to the Museum’s footprint, and it now occupies over 1.3 million square feet of space. The Field is an active research institution and has a massive collection, comprising over 26 million objects—only 1% of which are actually on display.

As educators focusing on the natural world, it makes sense that the Field would also be involved in conserving the planet. Environmental preservation efforts in South America—in which Field researchers work with local communities to conduct rapid inventories of fauna and flora—have secured 23 million acres of Amazonian wilderness from ruination. Conservation ventures are underway closer to home as well, as the Field focuses on ecological restoration and education efforts in the Chicago and northwest Indiana region.

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