Committee On Sustainable Conservation Practices Collaborates with NEU Environmental Engineers and MFA Boston

On May 30, 2013 at this year’s AIC meeting in Indianapolis, the Committee for Sustainable Conservation Practices (CSCP) will host its second lunch session, “Linking the Environment and Heritage Preservation: Life Cycle Assessment of Loans, RH Parameters and Lights.” CSCP and environmental engineers from Northeastern University will present our collaborative project that examines the sustainability of loans, exhibitions and environmental control from cradle to grave based on case studies at the Museum Fine Arts, Boston.  After the presentations, lunch session attendees will have the opportunity to work with the CSCP and our guest speakers as we break out into groups and brainstorm about the next phase of the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) project.  We will discuss how to implement the LCA findings- create blueprints and methods for new, sustainable best practices.
Since the 1990s industries and businesses have applied a quantitative method to evaluate the environmental and economic impact of materials use and related activities.  The process, called a life cycle assessment, looks at issues from cradle to grave by evaluating data using a range of computer software programs.  An LCA is a method developed to better understand and quantitatively address the environmental impacts associated with manufactured and consumed products throughout a lifecycle from raw material acquisition through production, use, end-of-life treatment, recycling and final disposal (cradle-to –grave).   To carry out an LCA, an issue, material, or action is researched, quantitative values are assigned to each aspect of a life cycle, and the values are inserted into selected database(s).  Software processes the data and the results are evaluated, analyzed and applied.
This tool can be incredibly useful to the art/heritage conservation community as we work towards determining sustainable best practices that will reduce energy consumption and lower related costs.  The LCA results can be implemented to achieve more efficient heating/cooling and lighting methods.  It can clarify cost and energy benefits that might result from wider relative humidity parameters and new lighting methods.  Through evaluating all aspects of loans and exhibitions, the LCA results can help museum staff to reduce associated waste and carbon footprint.
AIC CSCP/Northeastern University LCA Projects
The CSCP has collaborated with Northeastern University environmental engineer Dr. Mathew Eckelman and his students to conduct three LCAs related to museum activities and collections care. LCA 1 studies environmental control and energy and costs savings; LCA 2 looks at loans and exhibitions to identify the most and least sustainable aspects; LCA 3 will include a comparative lighting study. The Northeastern students are working with conservators and museum maintenance staff at the Museum Fine Arts, Boston to become familiar with museum practices and to set the LCAs in an actual environment. Their work will complete the first phase of this project in May 2013.  In the second phase, the LCA findings and proposed methods will be presented at future meetings, workshops and through publications to educate the AIC community and related fields about our work.
LCA Defined:;;