On April 25–26, 2007, the GCI held a roundtable meeting on the island of Tenerife, Spain, focused on sustainable climate control strategies and alternatives to conventional air-conditioning systems for cultural institutions around the world. Twelve international experts in the field of climate control—including architects, engineers, conservators, and conservation scientists—participated in the meeting. The aim was to exchange knowledge and experiences; to identify areas in need of further study or new research; and to identify opportunities for education and training.
The Organismo Autónomo de Museos y Centros del Excmo. Cabildo Insular de Tenerife—the GCI's local partner in its project Alternative Climate Controls for Historic Buildings—hosted the meeting.
During the roundtable, several topics were addressed; these included current climate management strategies; the issues, threats, and emerging trends in climate control; the meaning of sustainability in relation to the preservation of cultural heritage; and whether cultural institutions such as museums, archives, and libraries can or should play a role in the debate about energy consumption.
The group agreed on the importance of managing environmental conditions in a responsible manner with respect to cost and energy consumption. Also recognized was the necessity to create suitable environmental conditions in order to reduce risks to collections and buildings, on the one hand, and the need to provide human comfort, on the other hand. Roundtable participants explored a range of strategies that would allow the control of indoor climates to be less dependent on high-tech air-conditioning systems. For example, implementing proper design in new buildings and using suitable materials—practices that today are often secondary to aesthetic concerns—can create more appropriate indoor climatic conditions. Many cultural institutions are housed in historic buildings, which were often ingeniously built to passively control the indoor environment. However, the knowledge of how to use and operate these buildings has nearly been lost. The process of recovering this knowledge and achieving sustainable solutions in climate management depends heavily on human support and engagement. It requires not only a change in attitude (e.g., adaptation of clothing to seasonal changes) but also active participation in making low-tech solutions work (for instance, closing or opening window blinds to affect the indoor temperature). The group considered that cultural institutions, by serving as role models, could help educate the public about sustainability issues.
The GCI will publish excerpts of the roundtable discussion in the Conservation section of getty.edu in late 2007. A publication, including the discussion papers produced by the participants, will be available on the Web and in print in 2008.