Evaluation of Sustainable Climate Controls Installed in Historic Buildings

A series of environmental monitoring tasks were conducted in Vermont in three of the Shelburne Museum's buildings: Prentis House (an 18th-century two-story timber residence), Horseshoe Barn (a large, horseshoe-shaped two-story barn), and Stagecoach Inn (an 18th-century Georgian-style town hall building).

Different climate improvement strategies were employed in each of these structures. The first system consisted of humidistat- and thermostat-controlled low-level wintertime heating and summertime ventilation (Prentis House). The second system was a ventilation treatment of an entire structure controlled by both a thermostat and humidistat (Horseshoe Barn). The third system utilized centrally-controlled air conditioning with humidification based on an adjustable set point, depending on the season, to reduce the hygrometric stress on both the building and objects (Stagecoach Inn).

Climatic data was collected over a five-year period that included years before and after the implementation of the three systems. Temperature and relative humidity both inside and outside the targeted buildings was statistically analyzed for the evaluation of the environmental improvements.

The interior environments of Prentis House and Stagecoach Inn showed measurable improvement from prior conditions. Improvements were not measurable in the climate of Horseshoe Barn, due to the large natural ventilation rate of the structure. This result indicated that climate improvement systems are most effective in buildings that have a limited rate of air infiltration.

Work Completed

  • Evaluation based on the environmental monitoring data collected in the buildings before and after the installation of the improvements;
  • Presentation of results at an annual meeting of the Association of Preservation Technology (APT) in Banff, Canada, in October 1999.
  • A technical publication based on the above work.