By: Gregory Colling, AIA

The CHMM is currently working with Merrimack Design Architects and Tripi Engineering Services on an Interior Climate Control Feasibility Study with funding provided by the Newburyport Community Preservation Act.

The purpose of the current work is to assess the exterior wall (building envelope) conditions in the Bushee and Marquand galleries on the second floor of the museum, in order to prepare for the design of a new heating and cooling system.

A new interior climate control system complying with American Alliance of Museums (AAM) standards will allow us to better preserve the collections from excessive temperature and humidity fluctuations, and make the museum eligible to lend and borrow objects from other museum collections for exhibition, research, and educational purposes.

The work includes cutting four test holes in the gallery walls and removing the brick backup masonry behind the granite facades to assess moisture movement through the walls and any possible evidence of damage from freeze/thaw cycles.

The building interior finishes were originally plaster, applied directly to the interior side of the exterior masonry walls. In 1972, new insulated interior stud walls were framed over the perimeter masonry walls as part of the building rehabilitation and restoration project. Insulating the interior side of the wall has had the unintentional effect of limiting moisture movement through the wall.

Moisture vapor moves through the exterior wall from outside-in during the summer, and in the winter moisture vapor from indoor humidity moves outward which can condense against the interior wall surface. Damage to interior finishes occurs when moisture vapor moves inward through the masonry during the warmer months, condensing behind the cool interior painted wall surfaces, and causing the paint to blister.

The feasibility study findings will guide proposed solutions to manage moisture movement within the exterior walls to prevent damage to the masonry from freeze/thaw cycles in the winter, and better preserve our historic building, while also preventing damage to the interior finishes during the summer with the introduction of a new heating and cooling system.

Concurrently, we are working with an electrical engineering team from CSI Engineering, Inc. to assess the existing electrical system and design new electrical system upgrades to comply with the current MA electrical code, in preparation for a new heating and cooling system. The new system will be designed to reduce energy consumption. We will also be locating the system to prepare for climate change with the increased threat of flooding along the Merrimack River.