The venerable Everson Museum of Art doesn’t seem a logical candidate for a sustainable makeover, but that doesn’t mean green changes aren’t under way. The downtown Syracuse museum will be joining the list of buildings around the city that are receiving the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
“The whole idea of green buildings and sustainability is very much part of the culture of Syracuse right now,” says Steven Kern, director of the Everson, 401 Harrison St. By pursuing this certification, he considers that it allows the museum to “participate in a very important community dialogue.”
Most of the Syracuse-area buildings that have received or are working on LEED certification are new construction projects built according to council requirements. Few existing buildings have been optimized to receive the certification. And that’s what’s special about the Everson: It will be the first cultural center to receive it in Onondaga County, according to Tracie Hall, executive director of the USGBC New York upstate chapter.
It is no easy task to update a 40-year-old building to 21st-century sustainability guidelines, especially one with such strict indoor environment requirements as an art museum. “Obviously we have a controlled environment with heat and humidity, and so with the restrictions that we have to follow very closely, that makes for challenges in terms of consumption of energy and so on,” Kern says. “Another challenge is lighting. Obviously, when we’re lighting works of art there are very specific qualities that we’re looking for.”
The museum has invested in new, more efficient equipment to reach that goal. Kern says the cost of these will be quickly amortized because of the already-realized energy consumption savings. However, he’s thrilled to be participating in the local sustainability dialogue.
Hall outlines the steps required for an existing building to become LEED certified. “LEED for existing buildings takes your existing structure and does an analysis to ensure that it can achieve as much energy-efficiency as possible utilizing or improving existing systems that deal mainly with the building’s operation and maintenance,” she says.
As a result, the certification is more focused on institutional policy changes, rather than structural modifications. For instance, replacing cleaning products with environmentally friendly ones, encouraging occupants to recycle and replacing the use of certain materials, such as Styrofoam, are just a few of the policies the USGBC requires existing buildings to implement.
The Everson had already been making some of these changes, according to Kern. “This now makes it policy rather than just practice,” he says. “Museums by their very definition are interested in conservation and preservation, so it makes sense that stewardship of the collections and the building will translate in stewardship of resources.” Kern also points out that the museum is looking forward to being an example in the community by showing that if a building with such strict and rigorous controls and requirements can qualify, other buildings can too.
“The biggest aspect that’s so exciting to me is that we are preserving the past while preparing for the future,” Hall says.
Green Eggs and Ham for Breakfast?
A diverse group of women leaders will highlight this year’s meeting of local sustainable living advocates. GreeningUSA is inviting the public to join them for a light breakfast during the forum of area sustainability experts and awards ceremony. The GreeningUSA annual meeting is scheduled for Friday, April 20, 7:30 to 10 a.m., at The Bistro in the Gordon Student Center at Onondaga Community College, 4585 W. Seneca Turnpike. The event is free, but because of limited space attendees must register by Thursday, April 19.
GreeningUSA is a local nonprofit that coordinates with groups working toward building sustainable communities. The group aims to reduce problems associated with environmental issues like transportation and waste in an affordable, self-sufficient way.
The forum of women leaders will include: Sherburne Abbott from Syracuse University’s Sustainability Initiatives; Amy Casper of Ephesus Technologies; Vita DeMarchi of Synapse Partners; and Joanne Shenandoah, a Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge board member. Panel members will include women from area sustainability groups.
During the meeting, GreeningUSA will present its “Sustaining Our Communities” advocacy awards to recognize the people and businesses behind notable sustainability efforts made throughout the state last year.
Registration is available online at gusa2012annualmeeting.eventbrite.com or by emailing Diane Brandli at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rain Barrel Season
With all the unusual weather and sprouting flowers it may be easy to forget to take that great warm-weather fixture out of the garage or basement. No, not the lawnmower, the rain barrel. Weather forecasters have dropped the freeze warnings, but the rain’s still coming. Catching some of that water for later use on the lawn, veggie garden or even to wash a car reduces water use and it is free.
If you don’t have a rain barrel, the next workshop will be held at the Mundy Branch Library, 1204 S. Geddes St., on Wednesday, April 25, 5:30 to 7:15 p.m. The workshop, sponsored by Onondaga County’s Save the Rain program, educates city residents on how to use and maintain the barrels and lets them leave with one afterward. Only city residents can receive the rain barrels, and space is limited. To schedule a spot, contact Amy Samuels by phone: 443-1757 or email: email@example.com.