- This year we were honored to be awarded Best Revitalization Project by Building NH at their annual awards ceremony. This week we hosted a breakfast for members of the NH chapter of the US Green Building Council. These events have gotten us thinking more about being green, and have motivated us to go back 4 years to review how and why we made the decision to go after LEED certification in the first place. The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire was the first LEED certified museum in the state of New Hampshire. What is somewhat surprising is that it remains one of only:
- 20 LEED projects in New Hampshire
- 8 LEED Silver projects in the state
- 14 LEED children’s museums in the country
- 6 LEED Silver children’s museums in the USA
Many things that LEED certification encourages, or even requires, are good business practices and the right decision. For instance, there is a minimum required amount of construction waste recycled during building process. In our case that translated to over 54%, or more than 65 tons of waste that we kept out of landfill or the waste stream.
LEED also encourages using natural light and ventilation. So we choose to open up formerly blocked windows including the two tall arched windows in the South wall. Natural light reduces our reliance on utilities and lowers operating costs. A high performance heating and cooling system, as well as double-paned, energy efficient operable windows, help reduce our need for air conditioning .
Some of the decisions we made when thinking about LEED also resulted in delightful and impactful visitor experiences.
Finished Cocheco Systems exhibit
Rear extension during construction
Adding the glass extension to the back of the building brought in light and allowed us to create an exhibit about the social and natural history of living on the River which is on the River and allows children to make connections between their play and the real thing.
As in all construction projects we had to put money into infrastructure, such as our 2,000 gallon cistern which captures rain water and eliminates all use of potable water for irrigation. This is not something visitors will ever see. It can also be hard for visitors to appreciate the low-key landscaping done with New England Conservation Wildlife Mix which is designed to maintain native vegetation, increase biodiversity and wildlife habitat and reduce water usage.
Monarch Butterfly Teacher’s Network conducts butterfly release in Museum’s “back yard”
You probably have taken notice of our-low flow faucets and dual-flush toilets – did you know they save us an estimated 43% in water use, reducing our water consumption from 127,642 gallons per year to 72,721 gallons per year?!
That is just the infrastructure! We have cabinetry built of fast-growth bamboo and natural plant fiber cellulose used for insulation and acoustic damping. There is recycled content in the rubber and cork floor tiles, the bathroom countertops, and the carpet tiles. And we choose low-voc paints throughout the museum, as well as non-volatile finishes on floors.
Here are some fun facts:
The diner furniture came from a diner in Gardner MA that went out of business, and the Panelite ramp railing and the classroom wood flooring panels were reclaimed from a furniture showroom in Manchester, NH
Our exhibits were also done as “green” as possible. To us this meant reuse, repurposing, upcycling, being local, and making sure we used real things.
Here are some examples:
sea life murals were painstakingly removed, restored and re-installed in our new museum
Submarine portholes and hardware salvaged from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in our Yellow Submarine
Bench seating and passenger counters in the Trolley came from real, retired, equipment.
Bobbins, spools, looms, and the carder are all reused from discarded factory equipment.
Mill machinery called adjustable warp beam heads used as part of donor signs throughout the museum
I have talked about the importance of being green for the Children’s Museum before, and each time I say being green is not just the right thing to do, it is mission-driven for us. After all, the Children’s Museum is about the foundational skills kids need for success over their lifetime. Sustainability and stewardship are part of that. They are part of our overall health and wellness, how we relate to the land and built environment, as well as how we relate to one another. We believe that it is our responsibility to set a living example, and to model our values of responsibility and good citizenship.
The environment of the Museum is also designed for learning – that is our expertise. It is a best practice to provide a non-toxic, safe, and sustainable environment for kids to explore. A significant portion of our visitors are physically on or close to the floor, might put something in their mouths, and their brains are still developing. Kids learn in multisensory ways and we don’t want them to feel inhibited about exploring something through all their senses. We want them to have an environment which best supports their development. It is respectful of kids to be green.
“With each new LEED-certified building, we get one step closer to USGBC’s vision of a sustainable built environment within a generation . . .The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire is an important addition to the growing strength of the green building movement.” – Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair, USGBC