Performance Criteria for Museum Enclosure Design





This paper develops a framework of considerations for the development of project specific performance criteria for the design of art museums and art-viewing facilities. Three areas of performance are addressed: light control, interior environmental conditions, and condensation resistance. Also discussed are challenges related to integrating these criteria with wider institutional goals such as access to artwork and resources and responsible energy use.


Within the larger field of custom facade design, building envelopes for museums and art-viewing facilities are a sub-category with unique and complex performance requirements for which a general overview is

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Natural Light Control

Illumination using full spectrum light, such as daylight, is generally considered the highest quality experience for viewing artwork not only for perception of color, but for the psychological effects and

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Interior Environmental Conditions

Temperature and relative humidity (RH) are the two primary mechanical system considerations for museum and art-viewing facility enclosure design and attention to these criteria are hallmarks of most, if not

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Condensation Resistance and Mitigation Within the Building Envelope

In climates with cold seasons, the elevated interior relative humidity specified for museums and most art-viewing facilities makes condensation mitigation more challenging than most other building types. Condensation is a

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Design of the building envelope for museums and art-viewing facilities requires thoughtful attention of numerous unique considerations and institutional goals. Based on new science and material research, conservation requirements for

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Rights and Permissions

2015 ASRHRAE Handbook—HVAC Applications and Equipment, Chapter 23: Museums, Galleries, Archives, and Libraries, part 23.3.

Environmental Conditions for Exhibiting Library and Archival Materials, ANSI/NISO Standard Z39.79-2001. 3.5.1 Ultraviolet Light.

Garry Thomson, The Museum Environment. “Light” Part 1 (London, Butterworth-Heinemann, 1986).

J. P. Brown and William B. Rose, “Humidity and Moisture in Historic Buildings: The Origins of Building and Object Conservation,” APT Bulletin: The Journal of Preservation Technology, Vol. 27, No. 3, Museums in Historic Buildings (1996).

Jonathan Ashley-Smith, Richard Kerschner, Sarah Staniforth, with James Druzik and Jeffrey Levin, “Sustainable Access: A Discussion About Implementing Preventive Conservation,” The Getty Conservation Institute, Newsletter 19.1 (Spring 2004).

Lukasz Bratasz, “Allowable microclimatic variations in museums and historic buildings: reviewing the guidelines,” Climate for Collections, Doerner Institute.

Marion Mecklenberg, “Determining the Acceptable Ranges of Relative Humidity And Temperature in Museums and Galleries, Part 1, Structural Response to Relative Humidity,” 2007,

Smithsonian Institution Facilities Design Standards, Smithsonian Institution, Office of Engineering Design and Construction, January 2012, 23.5. (

Stefan Michalski, “The Ideal Climate, Risk Management, the ASHRAE Chapter, Proofed Fluctuations, and Toward a Full Risk Analysis Model,” Experts’ Roundtable on Sustainable Climate Management Strategies, Tenerife 2007, GCI.

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William Nazaroff, Airborne Particles in Museums. Research in Conservation 6. Marina del Rey, CA: Getty Conservation Institute, 1993.