Friday, August 26, 2016

Book Review: The Care and Keeping of Cultural Facilities

Are you faced with the job of developing a team to create a facilities management plan, or an operations and maintenance manual? Are you getting ready to hire a facilities manager and want help thinking of all the responsibilities to share? Or do you wish you just knew more to help improve the way you work with the staff and consultants helping run your building?

Then you will find wise advice and detailed support in The Care and Keeping of Cultural Facilities by Angela Person-Harm and Judie Cooper, both of the Office of Facilities Management and Reliability at the Smithsonian Institution.

The book may be written by Smithsonian staff, but it takes care to offer options for much smaller institutions, and to provide a wealth of resources adaptable to all sizes and types of cultural facilities.

It has a thorough index, and great resource section, and a solid bibliography. Throughout there are examples of real-life experiences and wisdom provided by practitioners from museums, zoos, and libraries in the US and Canada.

I particularly appreciate the admonition "No matter what one's role in the museum environment, it is important to have an understanding of facility-related issues. Staff should understand how the facility supports the museum's mission, and how it affects the museum's bottom line, as well as how they, as users, affect the facility's performance."

So, do you now how much energy costs your institution? Have you toured the HVAC equipment spaces - ever? Do you know where the recycling gets stored and if it is picked up appropriately? When was your last emergency preparedness drill? How effective is your event management approach at avoiding and earning compensation for damages during rentals? There's even information on environmental sustainability in operating your building.

This is a must-have for your institutional library. Use it to train staff, as support for preparing management plans, and help to orient experienced professionals new to the world of managing cultural facilities.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Join a Green Team for Green Team Leaders

In January 2017 Sustainable Museums is starting the first of two Super Green Teams. These are study communities, and the first is for campus-based informal learning institutions: zoos, aquariums, gardens, and open air history museums and farms. {The second is for history museums and historic sites - it starts in September 2017.}

The purpose is to create a learning-group of institutions with shared interests and related concerns, then provide the structure of regular communication and support to advance institutional sustainability goals.

Are you ready to begin or add to your green work? Would you appreciate some support? Well share the load. Join a peer group with ideas, experience, and energy to inspire you. Whether you’re a green team leader, curator, facilities manager, or default greenie, if you are the one to make a difference at your institution, then you’re the one to join us. Size and budget are not an issue; interest and commitment are. 

The field is changing; informal learning institutions are expected to set an example in environmental impact, yet it’s hard to fit new learning and new practice into an already-busy schedule, even when it makes a big difference. There are marvelous opportunities for strengthening our missions while caring for the environment - and it's easier to do if you're working with and learning from others as you go.

For 2017, do you want to try zero waste events, explore energy efficiency, increase your sustainable supply chain, or build a sustainability strategy? Only eight organizations can be part of the team - Let's keep this small enough to customize the work to fit your needs. 

  • Customized content for individual coaching calls and group calls 
  • Customized research to address individual and group interests
  • Links to valuable resources: articles and blog posts, product examples, case studies, sample forms, templates, online databases, supporting your needs
  •  A copy of The Green NonProfit: The First 52 Weeks of Your Journey, and The Green Museum 2nd Edition
  • End the year with a deeper awareness and knowledge, new resources, a broader personal network, material ready for your 2017 sustainability report and for a draft of your 2018 sustainability plan.
  • Accept the participation agreement and choose payments for either monthly or twice-yearly
  • Have computer and online access to use the conferencing system
  • Participate in January’s initial call and at least four more monthly 75-minute web-based guided learning discussions with the group (all seven strongly recommended: January – April; and September -- November)
  • Schedule 12 private, customized hour-long coaching calls with me, focused on the change of your choice
  • Optional: schedule me for a site visit so that we can explore your site and its options together, in real time

Join the Team: Ensure your institution’s environmental impact is positive, and you’ll never again feel alone during your green journey
Interested? Let's talk about how this team may help you make the difference you want. Please email me at The monthly fee is $750 (discounted to $700 monthly for two January/June installments). Add $2650, all inclusive, if you would like me to visit your site once during the year for a boots-on-the-ground conversation.
P.S. - If you're interested in the historic sites and museums team for fall 2017, please email me to book a spot {we'll start sooner if need be} and we can think about potential funding partners to cover your participation.

Contact me at or 978-505-4515 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Book Review: Fundamentals of Integrated Design for Sustainable Building, 2nd Edition

Are you renovating an existing building, or creating something new? Then this is a must-have resource.

Depending upon your team, this book will either help you understand the language and thinking of your architects, engineers and designers, or be a resource for encouraging them to design with sustainability if they don't already. Either way, read it before you get too far into the process, then keep it on hand for reference as you go.

Fundamentals of Integrated Design is an easy-to-digest textbook, and quite a complete one. It has a glossary in the back, and very helpful diagrams and images. There are the expected chapters contributed by experienced practitioners in:

  • energy efficiency and modeling
  • indoor air quality
  • water efficiency and use
  • chemicals 
  • materials choices and product certifications
  • waste management in construction
  • landscaping
It has very helpful sections as you establish an approach to and principles for your building project:

  • the historic evolution of green building practices
  • the importance of integrated deign teams
  • different rating systems
  • life cycle analysis
I found the new sections on Net Zero Energy and Resilient Design to be useful introductions. These two concepts - where buildings generate as much energy as they consume in a year, and designing to improve "the ability to adapt to changing conditions and to maintain or regain functionality and vitality in the face of stress or disturbance" (Alex Wilson, 2006) - are the next frontier for building evolution. Both are incredibly relevant in museum design and both are most likely to be overlooked or considered too far-reaching for a museum project.  They're not; they're about to be the new normal. 

Our buildings can be our greatest assets - after staff and collections - and they can be our albatrosses. If you're designing or changing your building, you must do it so that it lessens your burdens while serving your community. Integrated design for sustainable buildings is the best way to do that. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Book Review: Why We Ignore Climate Change

Do you ever wonder why you're so careful to remember that reusable coffee mug and those cloth grocery bags, but cannot give up your long showers? I do.

Don't know why you can feel for the people suffering from drought and fire far across the country, but not be as concerned about water use at home?

Don't know why not everyone thinks to recycle cans or bottles?

George Marshall helps us understand in his terrific, terrific book Don't Even Think About It!

It is far better to read this book than take only my brief notes from it, but here is my very simple summary: humans are complex; so is climate change. Family (human family) counseling is in order.

We humans compartmentalize our emotional brain and our rational brain in effect allowing us to hold two contrary thoughts at once.

We humans also accept and hold onto information that confirms what we already believe. We are willing to shape our opinions to reflect available data, expectations, and options (no drought yet so won't happen here).

We are likely to choose to listen to media and peers that affirm our beliefs, creating a "false consensus" as we limit the information they allow in. (Think you you stream only certain media, or give a thumbs up to certain kinds of music.)

We may feel that climate messages are too easily hijacked by media, corporate types, and activists. This makes it so difficult or risky to choose whom to trust, so why try? ("I heard that recyclers in [big city name] just take it to the landfill, so why bother recycling".)

We often think someone else is more likely to have success at tackling such a big problem, such as someone in the government or in charge of an energy company.

And the kicker, is that though Climate Change, its components and impacts, is all around us, it is frequently invisible. We humans find it easier to get up in arms against a visible enemy with a clear evil intent and obvious past transgressions.

That's quite a list! You can see how together those conditions create helpless or disconnected attitudes. When we suffer from episodes of bystander syndrome we can leave climate change to others to manage. When we let our confirmation bias or availability bias engage, we can attribute climate-related discomforts and difficulties to diffuse, multiple causes far away, and can stop short of seeing our own connections. And if the Climate isn't out to get us, and there's no enemy but ourselves, where is the urgency?

Museums to the rescue. Museums can help humans understand what has happened and is happening, and can connect that evidence to people's values, attitudes, knowledge, skills, and agency so that we all can do something productive.

The American public continues to consider museums the most, or among the most, trusted sources of information. Let's devise a coordinated effort that results in the public seeing collective response to climate change as the smart thing, the right thing, and the thing we want to be a part of. Let's make it cool (and then normal) to be aware and active. Let's give ourselves a safe place to talk about our questions and fears around climate change and their futures. Then we can come together to take creative, strategic steps toward Change