San Diego Natural History Museum receives LEED certification

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Natural History Museum recently announced that it received LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance certification established by the U.S. Green Building Council and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute.

Built in 1933, and expanded in 2001, the San Diego Natural History Museum is believed to be the oldest LEED-EB certified museum in the nation (among reporting projects) and first in California to certify under LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance. The San Diego Natural History Museum is the only museum in San Diego County, and the first in Balboa Park to receive this certification.

“Balboa Park has embarked on an initiative to bring the park into environmental balance by 2015,” said City of San Diego Councilmember Todd Gloria. “The Natural History Museum’s LEED certification is a tangible milestone toward that goal.”

The project was led by Shawn Whisman and Rusty Gehm of the Museum’s Building Operations team, with direction from George Brooks-Gonyer, COO and CFO.

The process of LEED certification for the San Diego Natural History Museum started in early 2007 and was completed in June 2009. During that time, sustainable policies and management plans were written, energy-performance data collected and occupant surveys conducted.

“The Museum got a kick start to pursue LEED certification when we committed to creating the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition to be held at the Museum in 2007,” said Brooks-Gonyer. “To qualify for having the scrolls on exhibition, the building needed upgrades to meet the requirements of the Israel Antiquities Authority. These included upgrading the air quality, controlling air moisture, air temperature and air volume. These upgrades resulted in a substantial upgrade of the Museum’s mechanical systems.”

The challenge presented by the San Diego Natural History Museum is that it has more than 13 different areas, and within these areas there are 130 zones, each with its own unique temperature requirements and five areas with precise humidity and CO2 monitoring. The Museum’s situation required individual analysis of each system serving the areas. After implementation of the new Honeywell control system and other mechanical upgrades, the museum’s environment is comfortable with a reduction of energy consumption upwards of 20% that will result in a payback of two years or less and ongoing energy savings.

The Museum’s next step is education, so that all staff members and visitors to the Museum will understand what it means to operate, maintain and thrive in a green building.