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NSTM Director-General studies sustainability at NYC museums

NSTM Director-General studies sustainability at NYC museums
Photo L-R: Prof. Sovia Huang, Dr.Shiunn-Shyang Chen, Mr. Thomas A. Javits (Metropolitan Museum of Art), Charlin Chang, Ms. Jenny Wang, and Thomas Scally (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Dr. Shiunn-Shyang Chen, Director-General of the National Science and Technology Museum, visited New York from May 19-26, to study the sustainability policies and practices of some of the world’s premiere museums, each selected based on its history and standing. Dr. Chen’s visit was made possible by funding from the Executive Yuan which gave Dr. Chen an Outstanding Public Servant award in 2013. Doing more with less is a vital necessity in today’s world of rising costs, and the responsible thing to do to ensure that future generations can also enjoy what we have today. For Dr. Chen, responsible public stewardship means studying, improving, and applying sustainability policies.

He visited the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, and the New York Hall of Science, with assistance from the Education Division of TECO-NY.

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum is the first LEED-certified museum (LEED stands for “ Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design”). Dr. Marcos Stefane, its Vice President of Visitor Experience, explained some challenges lying ahead, such as installing more comfortable lighting and more durable bamboo flooring, which is more expensive. The Guggenheim Museum does not have a formal written sustainability policy, but its programs and exhibitions are developed with savings and efficiency in mind, and its social programs are far reaching. It has partnered with many schools and communities; and frequently displays student artwork, to give children a sense of value in their art and nurture a museum culture in them.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art plans to replace every light bulb with LED’s and install new skylights, covering half of the museum’s roof area. Skylights reduce heating and cooling costs by retaining temperatures better, and the new leak-proof design will reduce overall maintenance. Tom A. Javits, Vice President of Facilities and Construction, and building manager Tom Scally showed Dr. Chen plans of the new David H. Koch Plaza. This will greet visitors with more trees, a water fountain, and will have an advanced drainage system beneath the concrete. At night, the façade will be lit by powerful-but-energy-efficient LED’s.

Many museums are privately run but the buildings and land they occupy are city-owned; such museums receive city funding for capital construction and improvements but must comply with cost and energy saving regulations. The American Museum of Natural History and the New York Hall of Science both installed new fixtures and cooling systems under “PlaNYC”, an effort of previous mayor Michael Bloomberg designed to reduce the city’s energy use and carbon footprint. These significant sustainability hardware upgrades are helping the museums, and the city, considerably decrease energy costs without large initial investment costs.

Dr. Chen plans to share some of these institutions’ best practices, and New York City’s energy saving guidelines with Taiwan, along with potential partnerships, to improve and apply local sustainability policies.