From Historic New England experts
Historic New England owns very few structures that are not considered a part of the historic house museum collection. Buildings and outbuildings alike are carefully preserved. Space use — whether museum, administration, apartment, or storage — is monitored for its effect on the structure and the integrity of the building materials.
Weatherization, loosely defined here as the activities necessary to make a structure more energy efficient, needs to happen at many of these structures in order to cut energy consumption. At Historic New England, our challenge is to fit any work required for weatherization within the context of our preservation philosophy.
Approach to Weatherization
Historic New England has developed a basic approach to weatherization that looks at many different factors. Look for white papers to be developed and published here as ideas around these factors are explored further:
- Metrics: The core metrics for our weatherization program are energy consumption and air leakage.
- Energy Audits: Working with an outside consultant on an energy audit can help define and analyze the metrics as well as recommend improvements or analyze staff recommendations.
- Preventing Air Leakage: General recommendations from an energy audit usually include securing the heated spaces of the structure to minimize air leakage. A common estimate is that 25-33% of a building’s energy requirement is a result of air leakage. Our basic approach to preventing air leakage includes securing the basement, which in most cases is also beneficial for our control of relative humidity inside the structure; conserving existing windows and applying weather stripping; and the use of storm windows and doors while balancing aesthetic, interpretive, and functional requirements. Additionally, we are exploring reversible ways to seal gaps commonly found throughout a structure in order to not irreparably damage historic material.
- Insulation: There are many insulation opportunities available in a building. Historic New England is currently focusing on insulating piping and duct work as appropriate and insulating the upper floors to prevent heat from escaping through the attic and roof. There are too many unknowns within the building structure and with moisture migration to safely consider blown-in wall insulation.
- Heating and Cooling Plants: Our goal is to have the most efficient heating and cooling systems in operation while also appropriately caring for the aesthetics of the historic setting and the building fabric. We are looking for simple solutions including smarter thermostats and outdoor resets on boiler systems to help mitigate energy use at the sites. We must, however, balance the need to better control the environments within our museums for the benefit of the collections and the buildings with the desire to decrease energy use. Sometimes the two do not coexist nicely.
- Lighting: How can we decrease energy use through smarter use of technology with our lighting systems and their controls?
- Water Conservation: As each site undergoes system upgrades, low-flow toilets and other water conservation methods are employed. As we explore waste systems, we test the efficacy of grey water collection and other methods.