An Overview of Sustainability in Balboa Park
For the past one hundred years, San Diegans have enjoyed one of America’s greatest urban treasures. But even locals might not know that historic Balboa Park is a cutting-edge showcase for the museum experience of the future. It's true! As the Park's 2015 Centennial Celebration approaches, its non-profit cultural institutions have come together with a dynamic vision for sustainable success in the next hundred years. Forward-thinking organizations all over the country are taking notice.
A decade ago, Balboa Park stakeholders recognized a need to upgrade its aging infrastructure. In the spirit of collaboration and open communication, the Park's institutions joined forces to create the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, through which the Sustainability Program (the Sustainability Program) was born in 2008. The Sustainability Program’s purpose is to strategically educate, promote, and implement sustainable practices and deferred maintenance in the Park. Today, this innovative program is yielding extraordinary results, helping to protect and conserve Park resources, strengthen economic vitality for the Park and community, promote a cutting-edge model of sustainability.
The results are dramatic! Since the program's inception in 2008, the Sustainability Program has saved over 6 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 90,000 therms of gas, adding up to 4137 metric tons of CO2, and all leading to $1 million savings a year. What does this mean? The energy savings are equivalent taking 811 cars off the road! Additionally, with the Program's help, three of the Park's institutions achieved LEED status-- the Reuben H Fleet Science Center, the San Diego Natural History Museum, and the WorldBeat Center. This great work leads to awards and accolades for the program. The Sustainability Program was awarded the 2010 Sustainable Showcase Award for Commercial Buildings from the California Sustainability Alliance. In addition, Rachel Madan’s book Sustainable Museums: Strategies for the 21st Century highlights the Sustainability Program in a case study.
When the 2015 Centennial Celebration arrives, the Sustainability Program’s efforts will be saving this historic park $1.5M each year in utility bills alone. Indirect savings (from improved air quality, fewer sick days, reduced healthcare costs, and increased productivity) are significantly more than that, and keep Park staff healthy and happy! The savings feed back into the institutions, helping them preserve and enhance their valuable natural, educational, and cultural resources. And because they now change fewer light bulbs, spend less time on ladders adjusting inefficient heat and light exposure shields, and control lighting remotely by mobile application and computer, Park staff have more time to educate, develop, and share the best museum experience possible with their 6.2 million yearly visitors.
How has the Sustainability Program achieved such success? The answer lies in the spirit of communication and collaboration that exists here, not just within the Park, but in the surrounding community. Members and partners of the Sustainability Program support the efforts to continue sustainability programs and projects in balboa Park. The California Center for Sustainable Energy, (CCSE) completed and shared energy audits from 2004-2007, and subsequently the Sustainability program was able to identify a list of significant and attainable improvement measures. In the process, they forged strong relationships with community leaders and the City of San Diego, receiving a $2M energy-retrofit grant from the Department of Energy’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. While the funds from this Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) covered the Park’s eligible projects, the grant required leveraging by projects funded by outside sources. Here’s where San Diego's local utility company, SDG&E, stepped up, providing access to incentives, rebates, and zero-interest loan called On-Bill Financing to the tune of $512,444 for 2011-12. This level of cooperation between museum institutions, the City, community, and local businesses is exceptional and a bright success!
While the Sustainability Program is focused on a full range of green initiatives, the EEBCG projects center on three areas: installation of cutting edge lighting solutions, "cool energy savings" through improved heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), and the consolidation and virtualization of energy-intensive computer servers.
Low wattage LED and IR lighting (with controls, sensors, and dimmers) require far less energy to run and cool, while improving the quality of light and reducing damage to valuable collection artifacts. the San Diego Automotive Museum, San Diego Museum of Man, San Diego Natural History Museum, Museum of the Living Artist, Museum of Photographic Arts, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, and the San Diego Model Railroad have all taken advantage of these cutting-edge technologies, resulting in a dramatically enhanced visitor experience and greatly improved efficiency.
HVAC systems consume about 28% of a building's energy, and the Program’s energy-efficient retrofits generate huge savings (up to $8,000 a month for some institutions). These are critical to the care of the Park's historic facilities, priceless artifacts, museum exhibits, employees, and visitors, improving air filtration and circulation, reducing chemical use, and maintaining consistent temperatures and humidity. They are also a lot quieter! The Mingei International Museum, Museum of Photographic Arts, Rueben H Fleet Science Center, Old Globe Theatre, and the San Diego Museum of Art have all realized significant savings from these improvements.
Historic Balboa Park is also leading the way in technology. Previously, each institution maintained its own computer server, requiring extensive energy to power and cool. Many were operating at less than 15% of capacity. Through consolidation and virtualization, 27 of these servers were reduced to just six. The newly strengthened core technology infrastructure paves the way for future projects in the Park, and reduces hardware and maintenance costs for the San Diego Hall of Champions, the San Diego Museum of Art, and the Old Globe Theatre.
These exciting improvements provide a blueprint for success to be emulated nationwide, giving America's great institutions sustainable, innovative solutions that filter down to our communities, homes, and businesses. So, next time you visit Balboa Park, take pride in the brighter look, fresher air, and the busy hum of an energized staff getting ready to celebrate the next hundred years!