43rd Annual Meeting – Sustainability (Track B) General Session, May 15, "Sustaining Georgia's Historical Records: NEH Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections Implementation Grant at the Georgia Archives" by Kim Norman and Adam Parnell

Georgia Archives Conservator Kim Norman and Assistant Director of Operations Adam Parnell shared data from the Georgia Archives’ successful NEH Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections Implementation Grant project in order to support and encourage other institutions seeking to justify implementing similar environmental strategies.  Kim Norman started off with a brief history of the Georgia Archives to set the context of the project.
In 2003, the Georgia Archives opened in its current facility, which was designed to meet the highest archival standards of the time, prioritizing security and environmental protection for the collections. The complex, multi-zoned mechanical system made it possible to monitor environmental conditions closely, but proved to be unwieldy and costly to operate. The NEH SCHC Implementation Grant project aimed to reduce energy consumption while simultaneously continuing to uphold best practices for the preservation of collection materials.
Refusing to let laryngitis derail his commitment to sharing this project, Adam Parnell whispered his way through the talk. The audience’s patience and encouragement served as testament to their interest in hearing what he had to say. The Georgia Archives essentially transitioned from a “run all the equipment all the time” model to a “run equipment only as needed” model. The original HVAC system was run 24/7 for 365 days a year, using up about 700kW/hour and incurring electricity costs of over $30,000 per month. Dehumidifiers were run constantly, even when the outside air was within an acceptable range. Heating and cooling units were also run constantly, at the same time, stressing the system, which needed constant monitoring and repair.
The new model relieved stress on the system and made use of passive environmental conditions whenever possible. The environmental standard was set to 55-60 degrees F with a 35-40% RH set point. The new system installed a “weather station” with “adaptation intelligence,” so, for example, when it’s raining, the draw of outside air reduces to a minimum to avoid increasing the indoor RH. The system can shut down cooling units when the outside air dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Likewise, the system turns off the dehumidifiers when outside RH is below 50%. The heating boilers are now run at 140 degrees F instead of the former 180 degrees, and they are turned off altogether when the outside air temperature spikes above 90 degrees.
Using the new model, kilowatt usage has dropped from 700 kW/hour to 365 kW/hour, decreasing the monthly electric bill by nearly 40% to about $18,000.  Increased savings are also expected in reduced gas consumption and plant water usage.
Resource Links: