Sustainability is a core value at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. Throughout the museum, we talk about stewardship—of self, community, and environment; how our small actions impact the world around us in ways large and small.
When we began construction of our new 47,000 square-foot building in 2009, our goal was to achieve LEED Platinum Certification. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized “green” building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in March 2000. LEED promotes sustainable building and development practices through rating systems that recognize projects that implement strategies for better environmental and health performance.
The exhibits and artifact collections have high energy demands because of their stringent climate control needs, making it a unique challenge to design a museum building to Platinum certification standards. A “Green Team” of museum staff and community members with expertise in alternative energy was established early in the design process to incorporate green building strategies including Site Management, Water Use, Recycling, Indoor Environment, Energy Model, Renewable Energy, and Energy Consumption.
One of the highlights of our efforts is the 35.87 kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic (PV) solar collection system, installed on the roof as part of the Energy Consumption design. Purchased through a donation to the project, the PV system will offset museum energy use by 25%. In the future, we plan to install an additional 67 kW, which would provide 75% of our electrical needs. Visible from the building’s observation deck, the PV installation provides an opportunity for visitors to learn more about renewable energy systems. Another aspect of our Energy Consumption design is a rooftop ice storage system that creates ice during the night, when energy costs are reduced and overall temperatures are lower. During the day, at times of peak energy consumption and cost, the ice cools the building.