4. Building

Our house is on fire

Gretha Thunberg
By our house, Gretha Thunberg naturally means our planet, yet this also applies to our own house, our museum building: we need to examine our own sustainability in our house too. Besides the exhibitions and events discussed in the other dossiers, a major contribution to sustainability can be made by collection management staff, administrative personnel, event managers and maintenance personnel.  

Many museums are housed in old, historical buildings in which modern energy-saving technology is difficult to install. At the same time, the measures we take to conserve the collection are not always consonant with the wishes of the public who come to view the exhibits. Yet there are ways and options to put our sustainability ambitions into practice.  

This dossier contains information about that issue: find out how the Rijksmuseum is weaning itself off natural gas, read about how to test the hidden impact in your own building and of course there are various links to information about BREEAM certification and Green Key endorsement.   

Brique Sibbing (Rijksmuseum)
Brique Sibbing (Rijksmuseum)
Brique Sibbing of the Rijksmuseum explains how the museum is addressing sustainability and the transition of the building and studio to natural gas-free.
What role does sustainability play within your organization?

For us, sustainability means that we want to reduce the museum's impact on the environment as much as possible, both in terms of waste and energy, as well as purchasing materials and contributing to biodiversity.

What form did this take?

Since 2016, sustainability has been one of the Rijksmuseum's focal points. Through our BREEAM certification, we have gained insight and made measurable how we are doing in terms of sustainability. For us, the BREEAM certification was not a goal in itself, but we use it as a steppingstone for how we can work on sustainability in all sorts of different areas. One of our ambitions is a completely natural gas-free Rijksmuseum in 2025.

What's the most surprising thing you've discovered?

The most surprising thing for us was that even with a national monument like the Rijksmuseum, a building from 1885, you can achieve an energy label C and a BREEAM In-Use 5* certificate. Of course, it is and remains a monument where a lot of things cannot and may not be done, but where you can also look at what can and may be done so that you can take those extra steps. 

What did you run into?  

You notice that there is now a lot of attention for sustainability as a topic within organizations, whereas a few years ago this was much less. Even within our organization at that time far fewer people were working on this than now. In hindsight, we might have been able to involve colleagues more earlier with what we were doing at the time so that it would have had more internal impact.

How will you proceed with this topic?

Through the new position in our organization, Sustainability Coordinator, we are taking an even more active approach to sustainability to ensure it is embedded in every part of our organization and communicated both internally and externally. In this regard, energy conservation is currently our main focus. 

What tip would you like to share? 

We usually pass on a tip received from another cultural institution: 

"Begin!" Don't try to do everything at once but pick a topic and start improving there, step by step. 

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Best practices
Hidden impact study (Babette Porcelijn)

 In 2019, the National Maritime Museum took part in a pilot scheme designed to reveal the hidden impact that an organisation’s activities generate. Often the effect on the environment has already taken place before a product is bought or consumed. CE Delft has used various data to make as close an estimate as possible of the environmental impact of the average Dutch consumer. The result is a top ten of the environmental impact caused by the average consumption of one person in the Netherlands each year. The initial estimate made in 2016 was updated in 2018 and again revised in 2020:

The survey of the hidden impact in the National Maritime Museum was divided into various sub-projects. One of the themes was reducing the footprint made by our activities. Or rather: converting our impact on the environment into an eco-positive contribution. The (hidden) impact of our activities were illustrated as follows: