NELM to become SA’s first ‘green’ museum

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Grahamstown will soon be home to the first 'green' museum in South Africa. In 2016 the National English Literary Museum (NELM) will be moving into a new, R127-million, environmentally friendly building.

Grahamstown will soon be home to the first 'green' museum in South Africa. In 2016 the National English Literary Museum (NELM) will be moving into a new, R127-million, environmentally friendly building.

"Moving into a ‘green’ building is a great motivator," said NELM Director Beverley Thomas.

"Most of the staff at NELM are committed to the ‘green’ agenda and there is every chance that we will be able to sustain this commitment, and mainstream sustainability into the museum’s operations."

The building aims to create an environment that suits the conditions of the collections that they store, as well as making a positive impact on the environment.

This is achieved by using natural materials such as stone cladding to reduce temperature control requirements, rain-harvesting, water-storage and water-recycling facilities, as well as introducing more natural light and ventilation.

A large ‘green’ roof over the collections’ storage area will enable constant temperature control and substantially reduce electricity consumption.

The Xeriscape garden, with endemic landscaping design, will be self-sustaining once fully established.

The green museum movement originated in children’s museums in America, mainly out of health concerns for young visitors.
Museums all over the world have now taken up the challenge to ‘green’ the profession.

One of the main concerns about the building is that it has taken three years for construction to begin.

Initiated in 2011, the site was handed over for construction on 4 February 2014 and the museum is scheduled for completion within 24 months.

Dr Een Greyling, Project Manager at the Department of Public Works (DPW) in Port Elizabeth, said "there is a lot that goes into such an endeavour before the actual execution".

DPW is the implementing agent, on behalf of Department Arts and Culture.

“One needs to do planning first,” he said. “One needs to go through concept design stage, sketch plan stage and then final design stages upon which tenders can be invited.

"This project was also one of the Green Building Council’s pilot projects and it sets a benchmark for future public buildings of this nature. The GBCSA awarded a 5-Star rating for the design, which prolonged the planning stage.”

There has been a lot more progress than meets the eye," Greyling said.

“We have officially handed over the site to the contractor, WBHO Construction, although there was a slight delay in commencing with the bulk earthworks. The project is still on track in accordance with the construction programme,” said Greyling.

The building is being funded by the Department of Arts and Culture and will remain government property.

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