Behind the scenes of the Field Museum’s LEED Gold

Behind the scenes of the Field Museum’s LEED Gold

The Merchandise Mart, Prudential Plaza, and now the Field Museum. These are only some of Chicago’s iconic and historic buildings that Delta Institute successfully assisted in earning a Gold certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

While achieving LEED certification for historic buildings may seem impossible, many of the prerequisites and credits in LEED for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance are actually as attainable in older buildings as they are in new construction.

On May 2, the Delta Emerging Leaders organized an exclusive tour, led by Delta’s Building and Energy Strategist Kevin Dick and the Field’s Sustainability Manager Carter O’Brien.  The tour went behind the scenes of the Field Museum’s LEED certification, incorporating some of the challenges encountered in the almost two-year process.

The Field’s LEED certification process was championed by Ernst Pierre-Toussaint, the Museum’s Facilities Planning & Operations Director, Earl Duncan, Chief Engineer, and Carter O’Brien, Sustainability Manager, and Delta’s Kevin Dick consulted with them through the process.

At the beginning of the project, the LEED team almost immediately set about reviewing and replacing the lighting fixtures and controls of the Museum. They completed a lighting audit and discovered over 30,000 bulbs in 20,000 fixtures. Over 6,000 of the bulbs were incandescent, and they began the process of replacing them with LED bulbs. The first lighting project conducted was replacing bulbs in the Stanley Field Hall’s six chandeliers, which saves $10,000 a year in costs alone.

Delta’s Kevin Dick identified outside air introduction as a particularly difficult aspect of certification: “Outside air introduction is the biggest Achilles heel of the Field Museum, as it was designed to meet Chicago building code but must meet strict humidity and temperature guidelines for artifacts in different spaces.”  Air handling units at the Museum serve multiple different space types on multiple floors with different uses, like specimen storage, to the gift shop to exhibit space. So determining how much outside air needed to be introduced into the building required hours of calculations and multiple pressure, temperature, and performance tests.

Visitors who stop for a snack at the Museum’s Explorer Café or Bistro will notice that they now compost. After conducting a comprehensive waste audit, the team noticed that its restaurant waste streams were unsustainable.  The team worked with the restaurants to implement a composting program and feature new, more informative waste and recycling signage to help visitors understand how to properly dispose of their restaurant waste.

Delta Institute continues to help the Field Museum work towards its sustainability goals, and looks forward to the recertification process in five years! Learn more about the Field Museum’s LEED Gold certification here.

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