Sustainability at the V&A

Sustainable development has been a strategic priority for the V&A since 2005. The Museum has made good progress in reducing its environmental impact and is a leader in the sector. The V&A is fully committed to further improvements and, now that it has calculated its carbon footprint, it is in a position to review its sustainability policy and prioritise its work to make the organisation more sustainable.

V&A's carbon footprint

To our knowledge, the V&A is one of the first museums to have calculated its carbon footprint. The exercise involved calculating for 2007/08 the carbon impact of utilities, IT, the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, headline and touring exhibitions, stores and business travel.

The results show that the majority of the V&A's carbon footprint is from utilities (75%) and a large percentage is from IT (11%). Activities that the museum community have tended to presume have very high carbon usage are actually comparatively low e.g. headline and touring exhibitions (5%) and business travel (2%). By fully understanding the carbon impact of different areas of work the V&A is now in a position to be able to prioritise its work to further reduce its carbon footprint.

As the South Kensington Utilities represent the largest proportion of the V&A's carbon footprint some further work has been completed to examine how this breaks down. The results can be seen in the pie chart on the right.

V&A carbon footprint piechart 2007/08

V&A carbon footprint piechart 2007/08

V&A carbon footprint utilities

V&A carbon footprint utilities

Graph of V

Graph of V&A carbon footprint of utilities 2004-2009

Progress on making the V&A a more sustainable organisation

2009 shows a 20% reduction in the Museum's energy carbon footprint compared to 2005. Much of the energy saving has come from the installation of a more efficient CHP system in December 2006 (shared with the Natural History Museum) which produces carbon savings of 700 tonnes CO2 p.a. at the V&A.

View Graph of V&A carbon footprint of utilites 2004-2009 (PDF file, 25 KB)

Low energy lighting

The V&A is committed to using low energy lighting both back of house and in the galleries. Different types of low energy lamps have been installed in the Museum. In addition, the V&A uses lighting controls to further reduce energy consumption of lighting e.g. adjusting timeclocks, using photocells/dimming and ensuring that staff turn off lights after hours. The Museum is able to monitor energy usage through readings from the 250 actual and virtual meters across its large estate and thereby target specific areas.

FuturePlan refurbishment and redevelopment

Two recent gallery projects have optimised the use of daylight and controlled the environment by minimising solar gain, using intelligent ventilation and heating strategies, without humidification or cooling plant. This approach means that refurbishing large new galleries doesn't dramatically increase the Museum's carbon footprint e.g. the Ceramics and the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries are expected to increase the V&A's carbon footprint by no more than 2%.

Display energy certificate (DEC)

Since October 2008 large buildings providing a public service to many people have been required to show a Display Energy Certificate which shows the energy usage of the building and an operational rating. The ratings work from A-G with A being the most efficient. The V&A's DEC shows a D rating which is considered a good result given the age of the building. The result fares well in comparison with other public buildings of a similar age and function.

Gold Green 500 award

The V&A is a member of London's Green 500 Scheme, the Mayor of London's pioneering carbon mentoring scheme that aims to recognise and acknowledge London organisations that are taking action to reduce carbon emissions. At the Green 500 award ceremony in June 2009 the V&A received a gold award from Mayor Boris Johnson in recognition of the significant work that it has undertaken across the organisation to reduce its carbon footprint.

Highly commended in Greening Government ICT Awards

In September 2009 the V&A was highly commended as a runner-up in the Public Sector category of the Greening Government ICT Awards. The awards recognise organisations that are saving valuable resources through the use of technology best practice. 

1851 Invest to Save project

In March 2006 the Treasury awarded a £2.85 million Invest to Save grant for a project which focuses on reducing carbon emissions in the 'South Kensington Cultural and Academic Estate'. This estate covers 87 acres and is mainly comprised of the Natural History Museum, Imperial College, the Science Museum, the V&A and the Royal Albert Hall. All of these organisations are partners in the project. The key aims of the project are:

  • To install comprehensive energy metering across the whole South Kensington Cultural and Academic Estate

  • To monitor energy consumption and report it as carbon emissions

  • To achieve reductions in carbon emissions of seven to ten percent across the whole estate, which equates to between 4,000 and 5,000 tonnes of CO2

  • To develop a programme to inform staff and visitors of the implications of climate change and engender a cultural change in behaviour towards energy reduction and carbon emissions reduction.

Contributing to changes in the museum sector

The V&A is actively participating in wider discussions in the museum sector on a range of sustainability topics. Through the National Museum Director's Conference (NMDC) and the BIZOT group for international museum directors, the V&A is involved in discussions on:

  • Refurbishing museums and galleries using low energy methods to create the right environmental conditions to preserve the collections

  • Revising guidelines for the use of couriers when loaning objects

The V&A is part of the DCMS Climate Change Project

Sustainable procurement

The V&A recognises its responsibility to carry out its procurement activities in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. In conjunction with its Sustainable Development Policy the V&A strives to incorporate environmental and social considerations in to its procurement practices, from supplier selection through to product/materials specifications and the rationalisation of the Museum's goods, works and services.

The V&A has been involved in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)

The V&A selected a group of its key suppliers to participate in the CDP's inaugural Public Procurement Leadership Collaboration. This initiative was designed to help participating organisations, which included for the first time public sector bodies, to understand the part played by their suppliers in their overall carbon footprint. Understanding the carbon emissions and policies of its suppliers has helped the V&A embed the sustainability agenda within its procurement decision making processes.

Benugo, the V&A's caterer, is committed to being more sustainable

View Benugo's environmental policy

Staff engagement and participation

There is much enthusiasm amongst the V&A's staff to make the organisation more sustainable and the Museum actively encourages sustainable behaviour.

  • The V&A has a Sustainability Group, Chaired by the Deputy Director, which includes representatives from a number of different areas across the Museum. The Group regularly reports to the V&A's Management Board, its senior management team.

  • Information on sustainable initiatives are regularly reported to all staff via internal communication channels.

  • The V&A has been part of the '100 Hours of Carbon Clean Up' - a campaign run by CIBSE (The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers) which aims to raise awareness of actions organisations can take to reduce the carbon emissions of their buildings and significantly reduce the cost of their energy bills. Organisations commit to spending 100 hours to reduce their carbon footprints. Through the initiative the V&A monitored and calculated the amount of energy it was wasting by leaving lights and other electrical equipment on out of hours. The results showed that lighting and electrical equipment left on 'after hours' at the V&A was responsible for around 0.5% of the annual electrical consumption for V&A. This is lower than the 'average' office (5% approx). Staff are helping to reduce this unecessary wastage.

  • The V&A hosted a CIBSE event entitled 'Effectively Communicate your Low Carbon Message in the Workplace' in October 2008 for members of CIBSE's 100 Hours project. Following the event the V&A arranged a drop in advice session for participants of the event, members of V&A staff who hadn't attended the event and the general public visiting the Museum. Megaman, a leading manufacturer of Low Energy Light Bulbs was present and was able to dispel misconceptions about this type of lamp. The Energy Savings Trust carried out 'Home Energy Checks' and gave out energy saving devices to participants.

  • The V&A launched a scheme for staff to borrow a Wattson home energy monitor to enable them to better understand energy usage.

  • The V&A holds open forums on sustainability for all staff.

  • The V&A runs a Ride2Work Scheme that enables staff to save the tax and National Insurance element on the proportion of salary that they receive as a bicycle loan voucher. This scheme, introduced by the Government, encourages healthier lifestyles and journeys to work and to help reduce environmental pollution.

  • Waste and Recycling

    - The V&A recycles all paper in 'green bins' in offices throughout the Museum, glass (including from events), card, cans, batteries and printer cartridges.

    - General V&A waste is removed to a modern incineration plant where it is used to generate electricity.

William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain

22 March – 13 July 2014. Experience the world of William Kent, the most prominent architect and designer in early Georgian Britain and explore how his versatility and artistic inventiveness set the style for his age when Britain defined itself as a new nation and developed an Italian-inspired style.

Visit the V&A exhibition William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain

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Moschino (Hardback)

Moschino (Hardback)

Designed by Luca Stoppini, art director of the Italian edition of "Vogue," this book presents the original, multicoloured, extravaga…

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Event - Prix Pictet in Conversation

Thu 22 May 2014 18:30

EVENING TALK: Join artists, critics, curators and journalists who will discuss the theme of Consumption through the lens of the fifth Prix Pictet - the global award in photography and sustainability.

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