MUSA: Sustainability in Practice

The University of St Andrews is well known for its research and teaching in Sustainable Development, but it’s not just the students that are benefitting from the University’s commitment to sustainability. As one of the most publicly accessible University buildings, the Museum of the University of St Andrews (MUSA), is extending the sustainability teaching beyond the classroom by showcasing its eco-credentials to the general public.

P1060479 The Museum of the University of St Andrews

First opened in 2008 to display the treasures of the last 600 years of the University, MUSA has worked from the very beginning to ensure that these precious historical collections are housed in a way that is as sustainable as possible. As the chosen location for the museum is a coach house from the 1860s, and a grade 2 listed building, certain restrictions were in place when planning the extension to the gallery space. The requirements of the collections were also taken into consideration during the planning process, and a pitched roof was added into the design in order to accommodate a large stained-glass window.


 The large, stained-glass window on display.

As luck would have it, this roof design is ideal for hosting solar panels, which are used to provide power for the lights and lift in the building. The panels are easily viewed from the rooftop terrace (along with a stunning view of West Sands beach), and are accompanied by a graphic panel explaining the energy saving measures in place at MUSA, as well as an energy display meter. The roofing slates were recycled from another building, and the majority of materials used in this development were also locally sourced to further reduce the footprint of this extension.


Solar panels and energy display meter.

The museum’s commitment to sustainability has not impacted on the care of the exhibits inside, on the contrary, some of the energy-saving measures in place actually help protect the collections! The ground source heat pump extracts heat from the rock beneath the car park through three 67m deep boreholes, then heats the galleries via underfloor coils. This method of heat distribution not only saves 9 tonnes of COannually, but also ensures heating is evenly distributed throughout the building, preventing the formation of “hotspots”, and meaning artworks can be hung anywhere on the gallery walls. Likewise, the use of low energy LED bulbs are not only more economical, but also prevent the build up of heat within display cases.


Visitor’s information panel on MUSA’s renewable energy.

On top of these large-scale measures, MUSA also keeps an up-to-date green noticeboard, organises green family-orientated events for the local community, and grows its own fruit in the front courtyard. From these efforts, it is clear to see why the museum achieved such a high rating in the Green Tourism Awards. MUSA is a shining example of sustainability in practice in St Andrews, and thoroughly deserve their gold award.

Click here for more information about visiting MUSA.

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