Cautious Welcome For Museum And Gallery Emissions Ratings

By Graham Spicer | 11 April 2007
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shows a photograph of a glass and metal building with a flat roof

New buildings like Brighton's Jubilee Library have been designed with the environment in mind, but many older venues need improvements

Representatives of the museum, gallery and library sectors have cautiously welcomed the government announcement that museums, galleries and libraries are set to get ‘fridge ratings’ to show visitors how energy efficient the buildings are.

All public buildings must get energy ratings – like consumer-friendly fridge ratings – and display them to the public from April 2008.

The annual carbon emissions of each building will be shown, and it is hoped that it will encourage energy improvements in public buildings, cut emissions and reduce costs.

Venues will get a certificate with a rating from A to G, with A being the most energy efficient. The certificate must be on public display, with a fine of £5,000 for non-compliance.

Inspections will be made while the buildings are open to the public and along with the rating they will make recommendations to reduce a building’s environmental impact although there will be no legal requirement to act on them.

“We must all work together to cut carbon emissions,” said Housing Minister Yvette Cooper. “More than 40% of carbon emissions in the UK come from buildings. From the local library to the House of Commons, the public sector must do its part to cut carbon emissions.”

a photograph of the entrance to the V&A museum an ornate building with a gothic arched doorway

The Natural History Museum has improved its environmental credentials but many smaller museums are struggling for funding. © NHM

Industry bodies cautiously welcomed the measures. The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council said they were keen to work with the government to assess the sector’s environmental impact.

They expressed concern, however, over the cost of upgrading the 30% of public libraries that need improvements and the many local authority museums housed in historic buildings.

A MLA statement read: “To achieve real change this measure requires government investment, such as additional dedicated funding to review energy ratings and make the necessary changes.”

The Museums Association (MA), echoed their views, saying that the programme should be tied-in with government support.

“There is not much point in legislation which provides information without also providing practical help for museums to act on that information,” said Helen Wilkinson, MA Policy Advisor.

“The MA want to see the implementation of the legislation tied up with support. Otherwise the rating could generate bad feeling among visitors concerned at the environmental impact of the museum, without any discernable benefit.”

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned: