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NERAM wins the sustainability prize

The New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) in Armidale has won the award for Excellence in Sustainability at the New England North West Regional Business Awards and is now a 2017 State Finalist in the NSW Business Chamber’s  Business Awards which will be announced in November.

“Over the past two years we have been working on making our aging building more sustainable and energy efficient,” said Robert Heather, Art Museum Director. “This has led to noticeable savings in our energy use and has also helped to activate the museum’s community of supporters who have made this award possible.”

“Most people don’t realise that running a modern art museum consumes a lot of energy with twenty-four hour airconditioning and climate control, exhibition lighting, audio-visual and IT systems all using up power all of the time,” said Mr Heather. “Our building also opened in 1983 when sustainable design wasn’t considered a significant issue.”

“In 2016 we implemented the ‘Sustainable NERAM’ program that aims to develop our organisation’s environmental and financial sustainability and has given our building a new lease of life.”

“’Sustainable NERAM’ identified energy efficiency issues and opportunities to improve our facility, operations and activities and this program has helped NERAM to raise the funds for significant capital works and building improvements from donors and funding bodies.”

“Sustainable practices are good business and it makes sense to reduce your energy costs, especially in a location like New England with its four seasons ranging from warm summers to cold winters,” he said.

“We are a regionally based small NFP business that has a relatively small funding base, limited cash flow and relies upon volunteers and donations to survive, so it was a definite challenge to meet some of the big goals which we set for ourselves, and are now well on the way to achieving.”

”This award recognizes the hard work that went into this program from the Board, staff and volunteers at NERAM and the great commitment and support that we have received from our local community.”

The funds to upgrade the NERAM building included project funding from state and local governments as well as donations from the local residents energised by the ‘Sustainable NERAM’ program of renewal.

In 2016 NERAM raised over $120,000 to replace its incandescent exhibition lighting system with new energy efficient ERCO LED light fittings and work is currently nearing completion on replacing aging fibre cement external wall panels with fire retardant, thermal Kingspan cladding, a $315,000 project which has given the building a new life as a contemporary looking arts facility.

The art museum has also come up with innovative solutions to resource upgrading its facilities with 240 new 370w solar panels installed on its roof by New England Solar Power to generate 88.8Kwh of electricity made possible with the assistance of an interest-free loan of $100,000 over ten years from a local benefactor that NERAM is paying off from the savings of over $1000 a month on power bills.

New England Regional Art Museum is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee that manages the NERAM building, programs and an art collection of over 5000 artworks including the nationally significant Howard Hinton Collection and the Chandler Coventry Collection.

The art museum was visited by over 47,000 people in 2016 and presents a changing program of exhibitions in five exhibition spaces, with other facilities available for programs including the Packsaddle art classroom, a visiting artists’ residence, NERAM Café, the Museum Shop and the Museum of Printing.

NERAM operates with funding support from Armidale Regional Council, Create NSW and the Margaret Olley Art Trust as well as the income it generates through trading, fundraising, sponsorships and managing funds invested by the NERAM Foundation.

The award was presented to Robert Heather, NERAM Art Museum Director at the Regional Business Awards at Gunnedah Town Hall on Friday 1 September 2017, the New England Regional Art Museum will now go into the NSW State Awards which will be announced in Sydney on 17 November 2017.

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