The Burrell Collection's home made more sustainable

The Burrell Collection's home made more sustainable

The Burrell Collection, in Glasgow, Scotland, will reopen next March (2022) in a refurbished and reimagined A-listed building that will help set new standards for sustainability in museums.

The ambitious redisplay of one of the greatest global art collections ever amassed by one person, is taking place inside an improved and upgraded building for the future, charity Glasgow Life has confirmed.

The Burrell Collection closed to the public in 2016 for the refurbishment which has been taking place since then. Shutdowns of the site and new practices introduced because of the global pandemic caused delays and increases in costs

The refurbished building, with new gallery spaces, displays and facilities will be an exemplar of sustainable low carbon design. The museum’s environmental performance has been enhanced by greatly improving the building’s exterior and by replacing power, heating and lighting systems with more efficient sustainable technologies. Subject to formal validation, it is anticipated that a BREEAM rating of Excellent will be achieved.

Glasgow City Council leader, Councillor Susan Aitken said: “The Burrell Collection is globally appreciated for its breadth, beauty and exceptional quality. Glasgow’s ambition is to give it the home it needs for the generations to come, giving the objects a more secure environment, while at the same time being more sustainable. The changes made to the fabric of the building to make it more air-tight and water-tight, and new glazing make it far less susceptible to changes in heat, and the upgrades of plant and systems means the building will be far more efficient, and able to take advantage of new technologies in the future to lessen its impact further. The project is realising a new, more sustainable future for The Burrell Collection and will keep searching for ways to improve the building’s performance further when it opens.”

Working to a design by John McAslan + Partners and with the services and energy strategy developed by Atelier 10, the building’s environmental performance and sustainability has been improved by:

  • Repairing and replacing the glazing and the roof to improve the thermal envelope performance by approximately 50%. This is critical for a museum due to the stringent temperature and humidity control needed for conservation.
  • The new facades thermal credentials are further improved through an enhanced air permeability performance that exceeds that expected of most new buildings.
  • Enhancing the energy performance of key central plant items such as air handling units, pump sets and lighting controls.
  • Installing new intelligent controls to result in ventilation based on demand, allowing the air handlers to slow down or switch off when air treatment is not required.
  • Variable flow chilled and hot water distribution helping deliver water for heating and cooling as and when needed.
  • New chillers with heat recovery reclaiming waste that would otherwise be disposed of in the atmosphere now being used to heat the entrance
  • A high degree of metering providing a better understanding of where energy is being used
  • New low energy lighting systems and improved controls
  • More than 80 separate energy use monitors checking the performance of the building.
  • World leading energy modelling experts, Integrated Environmental Solutions, will continue to model the most effective energy performance for ongoing sustainability post-opening.
  • A large array of solar panels generates a peak electricity supply of 140kW to provide carbon-free power to both the building and electric vehicles within the wider Pollok Country Park.
  • New onsite energy storage through an integrated battery to maximise solar panel provision and to provide resilience.
  • Display structures designed to be flexible and reusable making them more sustainable, but also easier to change in response to new research and audience interest

Over and above the retention of the main superstructure, all materials removed from the building were recycled, including stainless steel cladding, insulation and all of the glass. Overall 3,120m2 of glass was removed from site and recycled. The estimated saving from this is 27.53 tonnes of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of driving between Glasgow and London 118 times.

David Cameron, Director of Atelier Ten said: “Transforming a Grade-A listed museum building of national importance such as The Burrell Collection brings many challenges but the aim of producing an environmental responsive and low energy solution always gave momentum to meet and overcome these challenges. The refurbishment of the façade: the very skin of the building, which acts to protect the interior environment against Glasgow’s notoriously inclement weather, demonstrates the significant work which has gone into improving the building. Thermal performance is being enhanced by approximately 50% as a result of the changes made, cloaking the building in a protective 'jacket' for the foreseeable future and ensuring the exceptional collection is kept in the best conditions.”   

Pollok Country Park’s Active Travel Management Plan, which has been developed alongside the building refurbishment, will improve access to The Burrell Collection and wider park for visitors travelling by public transport, bike or on foot. This delivers an improved path network and associated signage, bike hire and bike racks, an electric shuttle bus, as well as electric car charging points.

Many of the Collection’s important and unique objects, which have not been seen for decades, or have never been on permanent display, will now go on show thanks to the 35% increase in the museum’s gallery space, made possible by the refurbishment.

An inclusive approach to interpretation, including dynamic digital, tactile and hands on displays will give more visitors a better understanding of the outstanding works of artistic, historical and cultural significance within the collection and the people who made, used or owned them.

Nearly half of the funding for the £68.25 million project was committed by Glasgow City Council with significant contributions from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Scottish Government, the UK Government, and from many generous trusts and private donors.

Sir William Burrell (1861-1958), owner of a successful shipping company in Glasgow, devoted more than 75 years of his life to amassing 9,000 works of art, one of the world’s greatest, single personal collections. The extraordinary richness of The Collection owes as much to his knowledge, excellent memory and sound judgement, as it does to his purchasing power.

Sir William and his wife Constance, Lady Burrell, gifted The Collection to the City of Glasgow in 1944. At the time it was described as, “One of the greatest gifts ever made to any city in the world.” (Sir Hector Hetherington, Glasgow University Principal)

Highlights include Chinese pottery and porcelain produced over a 5,000-year period, making it one of the most significant collections of Chinese art in Europe; paintings by renowned French artists including Manet, Cézanne and Degas; Medieval treasures including stained glass, arms and armour, and over 200 tapestries and carpets, which are among the finest in the world.

The rarest piece is the Wagner Garden carpet which is one of the three earliest surviving Persian garden carpets in the world. The refurbishment provides the opportunity to place it on permanent display for the first time, using innovative methods of interpretation to offer a far deeper appreciation of this magnificent piece of Islamic art than ever before.