The Field Museum Achieves LEED-EB: OM Gold Certification

CHICAGO (March 16, 2015) – The Field Museum and Delta Institute today announced that the U.S. Green Building Council has awarded the museum a Gold certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance (EB O+M). Chicago-based nonprofit, Delta Institute, assisted The Field in earning this certification.

One of the world’s largest natural history museums, The Field Museum is one of only 2 museums nationally that has earned LEED-EB O+M Gold certification. It is believed that The Field is the oldest museum building to achieve LEED, demonstrating The Field’s ongoing commitment to improve sustainability locally and internationally. The achievement advances the Museum’s long-term goals of increasing on-site generation of renewable energy while driving down overall energy use. Much of the work over the past two years centered on assessing indoor air quality for both exhibition space sensitive artifact storage, improving energy and water tracking, upgrading lighting and controls, and reviewing landscaping and onsite renewable energy.

“The Field Museum has long held sustainability as core to our mission and culture, so achieving LEED certification was a priority for us. We made huge strides over the past two years and are proud to share the results with our visitors,” says Richard Lariviere, President and CEO.

Delta Institute assisted The Field Museum in gaining its LEED certification. “We are proud to have helped The Field Museum reach this milestone. While the age, unique infrastructure, and sheer size of the building presented a number of challenges, it’s exciting to see the Field establish itself as a sustainability leader among museums worldwide,” Jean Pogge, Delta Institute CEO.

Originally established in 1893 as part of the World’s Columbian Exposition, The Field Museum was reopened in its current location in 1921. Since that time, many additions and changes have been made to the Museum’s footprint, and it now occupies over 1.3 million square feet of space on the Ground, Main, and Upper levels.

Delta Institute began working with The Field Museum in 2013 on comprehensive sustainability improvements, beginning with assessments of the building’s energy and waste infrastructure and operations protocol. Certification of The Field Museum was based on a range of impactful activities implemented over the last two years:

  • Energy-efficient lighting: Given the Museum’s over 450,000 square feet of exhibit space, lighting presented a unique challenge. A comprehensive lighting audit identified almost 20,000 fixtures in the Museum. Approximately 30% of the 6,700 fixtures that have inefficient incandescent bulbs have been replaced with LED lights that are five times more efficient and last for several years. The Museum has a goal of replacing 100% of its exhibit and spot lighting with LED fixtures.
  • Green landscaping: The Museum has begun to implement a complete landscaping redesign on the three-acre property that prioritizes biodiversity and native species, including green infrastructure strategies to mitigate stormwater and educational opportunities for visitors.
  • Renewable energy: The Museum currently offsets 100% of its electricity and natural gas use with Green-E certified Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and carbon offsets and is pursuing an expansion of roof-top solar array that triples current capacity to over 318 kilowatts. The added renewable energy, coupled with continued efficiency projects, will help the Museum pursue a goal of reducing its carbon footprint as much as possible as technology develops.
  • Sustainability education: The Museum will be unveiling a new educational exhibition for museum-goers to communicate its green building and conservation efforts. The exhibit will come online in 2015.
  • Waste reduction: The Museum made strides in expanding its waste reduction efforts, offering composting in both The Field Bistro and the Explorer Café. The composting includes food waste and compostable containers and flatware, increasing the diversion of consumable waste within the Museum by 15% within the first 6 months. The diversion rate increases monthly and is currently at 34%. The Museum has a goal of a 50% consumable diversion rate and continues to look for ways to improve.
  • Water efficiency: The Museum uses a lot of water, approximately the equivalent of 32 Olympic-sized swimming pools per year. One-third of this water is evaporated from the cooling towers to keep the building comfortable in the summer; the Museum uses the remaining water for lavatory fixtures, cleaning, and landscaping. The Museum has increased the efficiency of those fixtures, reducing water use to 33% below that required by Universal Plumbing Code. Additionally, the Museum waters its turf only during drought periods, and is looking to eliminate this need with natural landscaping in the near future. The Museum’s goal is to reduce water use by 1/3 over the next 10 years through efficiency and landscaping projects.

The certification builds on past sustainability efforts, including LEED for Interior Design & Construction Gold designation for the Museum’s Conservation Hall and a LEED for Interior Design & Construction Certified designation for the 3D Theatre.


About The Field Museum: The Field Museum inspires curiosity about life on Earth while exploring how the world came to be and how we can make it a better place.  The Museum invites visitors, students, educators, and scientists from around the world on a journey of scientific discovery.

About Delta Institute: Established in 1998, Delta Institute is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that works throughout the Great Lakes region to build a resilient environment and economy through sustainable, market-driven solutions. Visit online at

Support Us

Create a thriving Midwest for tomorrow by supporting Delta today.