Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Report to Governor’s Green Government Council
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) continues to implement sustainability and
green building concepts on many of its architectural projects.
Building Environmental Systems Research and Development Program
PHMC is working with Penn State Facilities Engineering Institute (PSFEI) to collect data on the environmental
conditions and performance of HVAC systems at PHMC historic sites and museums. PSFEI and PHMC staffs
are able to view data over the web, analyze the data and make recommendations for improvements to buildings
to achieve more stable environments for historic artifacts and structures and also to reduce energy consumption
where practical. PSFEI has also created a web-based network with PHMC sites to transmit real-time
performance and controls for HVAC systems and electrical usage. This will be especially useful as PHMC
enters into a new multi-year HVAC services contract that will enable a services vendor to monitor HVAC
systems performance in real time and diagnose problems and even make adjustments remotely.
Architectural Construction Projects Using Sustainable Practices
At the Pennsylvania Military Museum, construction has recently been completed on a total renovation and
expansion of the museum facility which minimizes environmental impact on the beautiful natural surroundings
of Spring Creek watershed and other open and natural areas on this site and recognizes the value of utilizing
existing buildings through renovation. Many of the concepts tested at previous PHMC projects are being used
here, including independently conditioned spaces depending on use, HVAC systems controls connected to the
web-based network being developed by PSFEI, operable windows and daylight provided in offices and use of
sustainable materials where possible. Waterless urinals were used in men’s restroom to conserve water.
Construction is underway at Landis Valley Museum for the rehabilitation of existing Bitzer Barn for new
gallery and collection storage facility. This underutilized existing building will be given new life without
having to expand its footprint in this rural village historic site by the use of high-density mobile storage systems
for many of the site’s important artifact collections. The building will be heated and cooled by a closed loop
geothermal HVAC system.
We continue to recycle old wood shingle roof materials removed from replaced roofs into mulch for use in the
landscape at our historic sites and museums. Since doing a demonstration a few years ago at Mather Mill
historic site, we have now routinely integrated recycling of wood shingles in most of our wood shingle roof
replacement projects by writing it into our standard specifications and have recycled wood shingles from 10
buildings. We test wood shingles prior to demolition to make sure that they have not been treated with any
chemicals that would make them unusable as mulch.
Educational Projects and Sustainability
PHMC’s Drake Well Museum is partnering with Oil Creek State Park, the Oil Region Alliance, and the Oil
Creek & Titusville Railroad to create a rolling environmental science car project to teach riders about oil
pollution recovery methods using historical photographs compared to present day scenery as viewed in the
valley from the train. The partners are working with consultants to develop the concept and budget and then
apply for funding for implementation that may include adaptive reuse of a mid-twentieth century railroad dining
car as a classroom. The partners will collaborate to create lesson plans and projects related to environmental
science education for various grade levels.
Historic Buildings Offer Evidence of Sustainable Practices
Historic buildings inherently exhibit many sustainable building concepts demonstrating that there is very little
that is new under the sun. Cisterns were used to collect rain water for washing and irrigation. The use of thick
masonry wall construction, high ceilings, operable windows, shutters, skylights, a smaller percentage of wall
area devoted to windows, wide overhangs and other passive devices were used as a way to minimize heat loss in
winter, minimize heat gain in summer and utilize natural ventilation and day lighting in lieu of artificial light.
These practices were essential at a time when there were no convenient, available or efficient alternative
solutions for heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting. But today, we can learn much from an earlier time when
“necessity was the mother of invention.” To learn more about the ways historic buildings used “green” design
concepts and also what can be done to make historic buildings even more energy efficient today, visit the
following link to the National Park Service Technical Preservation Services’ Preservation Brief #3, “Conserving
Energy in Historic Buildings,” http://www.cr.nps.gov/hps/tps/briefs/brief03.htm.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission staff takes pride in restoring the historic architecture of
the past and making continued use of these historic technologies and design features as a way to conserve our
resources for the future.
The Senior Curator of Zoology and Botany works closely with several environmental organizations to track
long term ecological trends and enhance the education of the public on key environmental issues. He collects at
the Powder Mill Nature Center in Western Pennsylvania, is on the board of the Ned Smith Center and
frequently interacts with the Wildwood Nature Center. It is felt that these type of partnerships help to enhance
the public’s understanding of environmental and “green” issues.