Berkshire Museum gets federal grant to improve building's energy efficiency

Thursday October 4, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The Berkshire Museum has received a $1 million federal grant to implement renewable energy efficiency measures into the facility's building systems.

The funding, which U.S. Rep. John W. Olver secured for the museum from the U.S. Department of Energy, will pay for approximately half of the energy efficiency project's overall $2.1 million price tag.

Under the terms of the grant program, the Berkshire Museum is required to match the $1 million contributed by the Department of Energy. Although that sum has yet to be raised, Executive Director Van Shields said the museum has already "guaranteed" that it can match the federal contribution out of its reserve funds so that the project can get under way.

"We will be raising money for this until we have $1 million," Shields said.

He added that all the funding does not have to be in place for the work to begin.

"It's on a pay-as-you-go basis," Shields said. "The bottom line is you don't have to have everything in front of you to get started.

"We're going to be raising money all along," he added. "We are already doing things, and have things in the pipeline that look very positive."

The $1 million is the largest grant that the museum has received from either a government agency or foundation since 2001, according to museum spokes woman Les lie Beck. It has has received larger sums from the private sector.

The museum anticipates that its "21st Century Energy Project" will be completed by September 2014, the year after the nonprofit celebrates its 110th anniversary. Shields said the federal grant will allow the museum to hire an architectural engineering firm so the project can move from the conceptual phase to the design development phase.

"The project will be done in phases," Shields said. "Some things will move faster than others."

The energy initiative is designed to take advantage of advances in solar power, lighting, thermal barriers, energy-efficient equipment, the capturing of heat byproducts, and other initiatives to implement renewable energy and energy-efficiency measures into the museum's building systems.

"The purpose is basically to bring the museum into the 21st-century energy environment," Shields said. "Re newable energy will lower our costs. The whole idea is to really advance the museum forward as green operations go to make it energy efficient and more sustainable over the long haul."

The museum installed a new HVAC system following its last capital campaign.

"But at the time I don't think the energy-efficiency paradigm was at the forefront as it is now," Shields said. "That's not to say that it's an inefficient system, but it doesn't take into consideration lighting and other things. This takes us to a whole new level."

William M. Hines Jr., the president of the museum's Board of Trustees, thanked Olver for encouraging the museum to work with the Department of Energy to make the project a model of investment in energy efficient improvements in museums and older buildings.

"Lighting the exhibits and maintaining specific humidity and temperature levels are challenges to controlling energy in museums, especially so in a building built before energy efficiency was a critical issue," he said.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:,
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