Thursday, April 21, 2011

CELEBRATE EARTH DAY! Science-Based Approach for Selecting Green Products

I am following up on Scott's post last week about Sustainability to let other museum professionals and designers know about new online software called BEES that helps you select green products. I'm asked all the time if there is a 'certified' green products list and the truth is, there is none. There are lots of different lists and standards, as well as just plain old marketing claims. But this software tool, developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology can help.

Years ago, one of our first clients was the California Energy Commission who first told us about the BEES software. At the time, it was in Beta testing and only for Windows users. It was not user friendly at all. Now, this version is for Mac platforms too and it's FREE!

BEES uses a science-based approach to evaluate environmentally-preferred building products including performance data and cost factors. It uses a life-cycle assessment approach and all stages are analyzed: raw material acquisition, manufacture, transportation, installation, use, and recycling and waste management.

Economic performance is measured using ASTM standard life-cycle cost method, which covers initial investment, replacement, operation, maintenance and repair, and disposal. The software then combines environmental and economic performance into an overall score. Here is the link to BEES software

So the next time you are evaluating so-called 'green products' for your museum project, you might want to check this out. ENJOY THE EARTH EVERY DAY!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sustainable Design is Good Design

by Scott Moulton

I had the pleasure of attending the second professional advisor meeting for the OMSI’s sustainability project last week. The meeting was a chance to see what they had been up to for the last year and review prototypes of 6 exhibits, 2 cell phone stories and the green exhibit checklist. Over the course 2 days of meetings with these dedicated, engaging and insightful people a few key points stuck out for me.

The 3 pillars is can lead to a transformative approach
OMSI has chosen define sustainability using the 3 pillars (economy, environment and equality). This is a common approach to sustainable development but design typically focuses on environmental impact and specifically on material choices. Economy is not commonly recognized as a key part of sustainable design but it is absolutely vital and I hope that it becomes a more valued measure. Equality is a challenging value that at first seem a tough fit in thinking about exhibit development and design. Ben Fleskes, Director of Production, consistently pulls in this social dimension by providing good working conditions as well pulling people from the community to work on the design and production of the exhibits. The goal of this approach is to engage the community, provide job training and skills and make the museum a more interesting place.

Sustainable Design is Good Design

We were asked to come up with what would be best practices for sustainable development and design and I am happy to report that they look a lot like what I call good design. The overriding principles included: Be process focused, set clear goals, make sure things are going as planned, include your community, design for the capacity of your client or institution, think about what you are designing from multiple perspectives, the perfect is the enemy of the good, check yourself and celebrate success. Sustainability can be a powerful framework to help make decisions that lead to good development and design.

The Power of the Prototype
There is no better way to have the necessary insights and find your blind spots than to stand in front of a prototype. Our own Maria Mortati has written on this and even organized an exhibit on it here. You may say this is just good design and it is, but prototyping will result in fewer exhibits that miss the mark, require remediation or end up worthless and that has a greater impact than using any green material.