The South East Sydney Business Award for Excellence in Sustainability, announced on 25 July, recognises the Museum’s commitment to environmental sustainability and energy efficiency.

The Museum received the Excellence in Sustainability Award for implementing energy-saving practices in the way it manages its air-conditioning. Utility costs at the Museum exceed $900,000 a year, with about 60 per cent of that sum spent on climate control systems to ensure Museum collections remain in good condition.

For the past two years, staff members Dr Scott Mitchell, Colin Macgregor, and Glenn Hodges have been trialling a number of initiatives to reduce energy consumption without compromising collection care.

Firstly, they experimented with the periodic overnight shutdown of the air-conditioning system that services the collection storage areas. They found that the humidity and temperature drifted slowly but stayed within an acceptable range because the rooms are solid and well sealed.

The immediate reduction in electricity consumption was encouraging, with average daily consumption falling from 13.1 MWh/day to 12.7 MWh/day, a reduction 3 per cent. Further efficiency gains were achieved with the installation of a desiccant air-drying plant and closer control of fresh air intake into the buildings, with monitoring of carbon dioxide levels for visitor comfort.

The findings and results from the testing have been remarkable. Since the Museum began its sustainability initiative, consumption has fallen from 15.4 MWh/day to 11.45 MWh/day – a saving of 26 per cent, equivalent to taking 130 Sydney households off the grid.

The Museum is continuing to upgrade its air-conditioning plant to make it progressively more energy efficient and is sharing this knowledge to assist other institutions, from smaller regional galleries to major metropolitan museums. The Museum has also received considerable interest from colleagues across the globe.

Winners in the South East Sydney Business Awards now proceed as finalists to the NSW Business Chamber State Awards to be held on 28 November.

Lisa Robinson, Communications Intern