PNC SmartHome in Cleveland Snares Brooking Prize for Cleveland Museum of Natural History

A friend pursuing graduate work in museum studies sent this about the winner of this year’s Brooking Prize, which is given by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) for excellence in creativity. Congratulations are in order for this very informative piece about the PNC SmartHome, published in Museum magazine and written by David Beach director, GreenCityBlueLake Institute, The Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

PNC SmartHome: An Inspirational Exhibit of Extreme Energy Efficiency and Carbon Reduction

The term “natural history” often evokes a sense of the past, but increasingly The Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH) is showing the way to a more sustainable future. In 2011, CMNH developed an ambitious exhibit, the PNC SmartHome, to demonstrate the energy-efficient house of the future—a house designed to stay warm through a Cleveland winter without a conventional furnace.

Planning for the SmartHome began in late 2010, when CMNH staff members were making preparations for mounting a major traveling exhibit on the science of climate change. They wondered what else they could do to communicate the complex and challenging issue of climate change. Could they do something hopeful to demonstrate real solutions? Could they, for instance, build a house that would show how dramatic reductions in carbon emissions are really possible? Could they find a suitable vacant lot for a house, design it, get the plans through the city permitting process and raise funds to build it all in a couple of months? Could they find a construction team that could build a house in a matter of weeks—a home that was different from any house built in Northeast Ohio? And could the house be built next to the museum as an exhibit and then moved later to the vacant lot where it could be installed permanently and sold?

Notwithstanding a certain amount of drama (including the rainiest spring construction season in Cleveland history), the answers to these questions turned out to be yes. And the PNC SmartHome opened at the museum for guided tours on June 6, 2011.

The project had a number of goals that stretched the boundaries of a typical museum exhibit:

Give thousands of people hands-on experience with attractive techniques of green building and energy conservation.
Build local capacity for advanced green building and raise building design standards in Cleveland.
Support efforts of neighborhood development organizations to help residents save energy and save money.
Broaden awareness of the climate change impacts of the building sector.
Build a practical house that would be an asset for a Cleveland neighborhood.



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