The Museum currently offsets 100% of its electricity and natural gas use with Green-E certified Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), in addition to facility based systems that employ renewable energy and reduce energy expenditure.
The Museum utilizes a chiller/thermal storage system, which keeps the buildings climate cool in the warmer months and ensures proper humidity for the collections year round. The system works by producing ice during evening hours when citywide demand for energy is lower. The ice is placed in thermal storage containers and water flow introduced. Air is blown around the containers and then circulated through the building during the day. This reduces the Museum’s impact on the region’s grid system and prevents brownouts, as air conditioning usage is highest during mid-day.
The Museum has a 99.4 Kilowatt photovoltaic solar array on its roof. An average residential solar array is between 2 and 4 Kilowatts, so the Museum’s is pretty substantial. In fact, when it was installed in 2002, it was the largest solar array in Illinois. You can see real-time monitoring of the solar array below. For more information, there is an article in “Energy Seeds,” a blog maintained by the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation.
When the Museum was built in 1921, there were six light wells that provided solar lighting throughout the building. Over the years, these light wells were covered over to provide more storage for the Museum’s vast collections (the Museum has approximately 30,000,000 specimens!). However, natural lighting still almost exclusively lights the largest and busiest hall in the Museum, Stanley Field Hall.
Additionally, the Museum has seen an energy savings of up to 40% with these modifications:
• Replaced inefficient incandescent light bulbs with LED lights. Of the 20,000 light fixtures in the museum, 6,700 have already been converted. LEDs are 5 times more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs and last for several years.
• Utilized motion sensitive lighting, which illuminates the display only when someone is present to view it (Northwest Coast Native American Hall and Cyrus Tang Hall of China).
The Field Museum has a strong commitment to lowering the carbon footprint of those traveling to and from the museum.
• Encourages employee public transportation usage by offering a payroll deduction for bus/train fare.
• Offers subsidized membership to the Enterprise Car Sharing Program.
• First institution of its kind to develop a shared bike program for staff, providing 3 bicycles for staff to attend meetings off-site, run errands, or just get physical exercise.
• Has indoor, secured bicycle storage and showers for staff and volunteers commuting to the campus by bike. Many of the Museum’s 500+ staff commutes to work by bicycle on a regular basis, and the Museum won the Active Transportation Alliance’s Bicycle Commuter Challenge from 2006-2011.
• Provides directions to the Museum by train, bus, and bike path.
• Provides bike racks and a Divvy Bike Sharing station to secure bikes while inside the museum.