Experts' Roundtable Proceedings

Alternative Climate Controls for Historic Buildings

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In April 2007, the Getty Conservation Institute organized the Experts' Roundtable on Sustainable Climate Management Strategies in Tenerife, Spain. The objectives of the roundtable were to exchange knowledge and experiences; to identify areas in need of further study or new research; and to identify opportunities for education and training in this subject. The event was hosted by the Autonomous Organization of Museums and Centers of Tenerife Island Government, the GCI's local project partner for testing and implementing an alternative climate control system.

Over the last two decades, management and control of the museum environment have been important topics for the GCI. The Institute's Science department has carried out several projects investigating the economical and sustainable applicability of alternatives to conventional air-conditioning systems to establish and maintain preservation-favorable indoor climates for collections in hot and humid climates.

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The GCI's education department offered a series of courses in preventive conservation, focusing on the management of the environmental conditions under which collections are housed and used. Based on the growing need to adapt to global climate change, along with a call for more sustainable strategies, the GCI believed it was time for an interdisciplinary dialogue about the museum environment, specifically the indoor climate. A group of international experts—including architects, engineers, conservators and conservation scientists with an established record in the fields of environmental research, management or control—were invited to participate in a two-day discussion on sustainable climate management strategies and alternatives to conventional air-conditioning systems for cultural institutions.


Camuffo, Dario

Istituto di Scienze dell'Atmosfera e del Clima (Italy)

Chiari, Giacomo

Getty Conservation Institute (USA)

Conrad, Ernest

Landmark Facilities Group, Inc. (USA)

Dardes, Kathleen

Getty Conservation Institute (USA)

Henry, Michael

Watson and Henry Associate (USA)

Kerschner, Richard

Shelburne Museum, Vermont (USA)

Kozłowski, Roman

Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland)

Maekawa, Shin

The Getty Conservation Institute (USA)

Michalski, Stefan

Canadian Conservation Institute (Canada)

Oreszczyn, Tadj

University College London (UK)

Padfield, Tim

Environmental consultant (UK/Denmark)

Schellen, Henk

Technical University of Eindhoven (The Netherlands)

Staniforth, Sarah

National Trust (UK)

Toledo, Franciza

Environmental consultant (Brazil)

Valentín, Nieves

Instituto del Patrimonio Histórico Español (Spain)


Museo de Antropolgia, Valle Guerra

Abstract of Roundtable Discussions
Topics addressed during the two-day roundtable included current climate management strategies and emerging trends; 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. Several areas for further research were identified: Collecting data on the cost of control (energy consumption, installation and maintenance costs) by comparing building types with different degrees of control in different climate zones against actual indoor climate conditions could result in an extremely useful overview. This comparison could help decision makers determine the level of control they want and the level they can afford.

Another research topic identified was the validation and fine tuning of computer models increasingly used in the design process of buildings and systems. It was also suggested the field could benefit from additional research on the response of different materials to short-term fluctuations. While a large amount of scientific data and practical experience already exists on this subject, recording proven fluctuations of objects and collections in the field would provided needed data.

Dario Camuffo, Ernest Conrad

The group stressed that knowledge and experience in technologies appropriate for museums should be disseminated more widely. The participants felt those involved in environmental management strategies for museums—not only conservators, but architects and engineers who work in this sector—could benefit from continual professional development through education, training, and the dissemination of information.


We are pleased to make available the proceedings from this experts' roundtable. Included in the proceedings are the discussions papers submitted by the experts prior to the roundtable; an edited transcript of the roundtable discussion, and a bibliography of the participants' published works on climate management. The proceedings were edited by Foekje Boersma, GCI Education, with input from Education and Science department staff.

Discussion Papers

Church Heating: A Balance Between Conservation and Thermal Comfort
by Dario Camuffo, Antonio della Valle (23pp. PDF, 924KB)

Climate Control Systems Design: Twenty-Five Years Later and Climate Change
by Ernest A. Conrad (6pp., PDF, 168KB)

The Heritage Building Envelope As Passive and Active Climate Moderator: Opportunities and Issues in Reducing Dependency on Air Conditioning.
by Michael C. Henry (32pp., PDF, 2.1MB)

Providing Safe and Practical Environments for Cultural Property in Historic Building—and Beyond
by Richard L. Kerschner (28pp., PDF, 580KB)

Climate-induced Damage of Wood: Numerical Modeling and Direct Tracing
by Roman Kozłowski (12pp., PDF, 632KB)

Investigations of Climate Control Alternatives for Cultural Institutions in Hot and Humid Climates
by Shin Maekawa (27pp., PDF, 1.2MB)

The Ideal Climate, Risk Management, the ASHRAE Chapter, Proofed Fluctuations, and Towards a Full Risk Analysis Model
by Stefan Michalski (19pp., PDF, 616KB)

Exploring the Limits for Passive Indoor Climate Control
by Tim Padfield (12pp., PDF, 956KB)

An Overview of Experimental and Simulation Work on Indoor Climate and Control in Historic Houses and Monumental Buildings
by Henk L. Schellen, Jos (A.)W.M. van Schijndel (47pp., PDF, 2.9MB)

From Conservation Heating to Slow Conservation: A Tale of the Appropriate Rather than the Ideal
by Sarah Staniforth (17pp., PDF, 476KB)

Museum Passive Buildings in Warm Humid Climates
by Franciza Toledo (26pp., PDF, 1.8MB)

Microbial Contamination in Museums and Archives—Health Hazards: Preventive Strategies Using Air Ventilation Systems
by Nieves Valentín (26pp., PDF, 1.1MB)

Edited Transcript
Experts' Roundtable on Sustainable Climate Management Strategies (98pp., PDF, 446MB)

Experts' Bibliography (12pp., PDF, 424KB)

Page updated: January 2010