Institute of Contemporary Art Boston

The renowned Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is an art museum and exhibition space, the jewel of Boston’s Seaport District.  Founded in 1936, the ICA presents contemporary art in all media  – visual arts, film, video, performance and literature – and creates educational programs that encourage an appreciation for contemporary culture.

Having outgrown its space in a former police station on Boylston Street in Back Bay, the ICA was able to design and build a new museum when the City of Boston selected the ICA as the cultural cornerstone of the Fan Pier development.  In December 2006, the ICA opened its dramatic new 65,000-square-foot building that extends to the water’s edge.  The magnificent new building, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is a work of art itself.  It features flexible column-free galleries through the mega-truss design, 15 1/2-foot ceilings, an expansive adjustable skylight system and a Pilkington structural glass wall facing the harbor that spans the entire width of the north end of the exhibition space.  The museum’s public spaces also feature a digital media educational studio, a 325-seat theater on the second and third floors, an art lab for educational purposes and a café featuring floor to ceiling sliding glass doors that face the Harbor.  Nonpublic areas include 20,000 sq. ft. of support space including some office, prep and production space that accommodates the 65+ ICA staff and volunteers.

The Need
“The ICA faces energy challenges that are unique to art institutions,” explains Jana Dengler, ICA’s Director of Facilities and Security.  Not only are there very exacting climate standards for the storage and display of art, but also the correct amount and quality of light is paramount for viewing conditions and for safety.  “Anyone who has been here, knows that the glass walled museum at water’s edge offers year-round enjoyment to visitors with its exquisite views of the Boston skyline, boats in the harbor and planes taking off and landing at Logan Airport,” enthused Jana.  However, this location with strong winds off the water and cold New England winters also intensified the energy challenges facing the ICA.

From the start the ICA incorporated a number of green design elements, such as water reducing self-flushing toilet/urinals, sensor operated water faucets, an Apogee building management system, a Lighting Control and Design programmable low voltage lighting system and north facing skylights for daylight harvesting.  “These helped make the ICA more energy efficient and reduced our costs,” said Jana, “yet meeting the environmental requirements of the art and comfort and safety needs of approximately 225,000 visitors each year means that we continue to have high energy needs.”

The Solution
Fundraising, grants, events, membership and admission fees are critical to the ICA’s ability to keep putting on ambitious shows and programs that keep them on the map.  “Money that we don’t spend on energy bills can also play an important role in funding exhibitions, the permanent collection and our other programming”, explained Jana.

The ICA first signed up for PowerOptions 2002 Electricity Program while in its previous Back Bay location, saving 14% over what it would have paid under the utility basic service during the four-year contract period.  “As a result of these electricity savings, we signed up for PowerOptions Natural Gas Program in 2005 and have continued to save a substantial amount over the past five years.  These energy savings mean that the ICA has been able to reduce operating costs, invest in additional energy saving initiatives, and have more dollars for programming,” stated Jana.

More than cost savings
“One of the most amazing things about PowerOptions,” says Jana “was the fact that they called me and said ‘today is a good day to buy electricity, prices haven’t been this low in quite sometime.’”  The ICA locked in its rate, providing it with protection against market fluctuations.  “Not only were they right,” stated Jana, “but the fact that they are there watching the markets is priceless.  I can’t even put a dollar value on that. Predictability and budget certainty are critical to the ICA and with the multiple hats I wear, I don’t have time to be monitoring the market everyday.”