Central Ohio IFMA Chapter members get an inside look at COSI

      Today’s lessons in science go well beyond the Bunsen burners, test tubes and beakers of yesteryear.  Kids in the 21st Century can dive into hands on learning today with virtual reality, simulations, and 3D technology.  And with over 660,000 visitors each year, the Center of Science and Industry – or COSI as it is lovingly known as in Columbus, Ohio – is here to offer all that and then some, to make science fun and interesting for all ages.

      On February 20, 2018, nearly three dozen Central Ohio IFMA Chapter members and their guests got an inside look at COSI, it sustainability efforts, and its newest exhibit before it opened to the public. It was like kids in a candy store for many IFMA members who had never visited COSI, even as a child.  For others, it was treat to return.

     Brian Lobaugh, Senior Director of Facilities at the science center was the first to remind everyone, “COSI is for kids of all ages.”

     Opened in 1964 at Memorial Hall in downtown Columbus, COSI moved in 1999 to a new 320,000-square-foot home (the old Central High School) designed by internationally-renowned architect Arata Isozaki, creating one of the largest modern-built science centers in the United States.  As a "center of science” rather than a standalone science center, COSI has established important partnerships that enrich guest experiences, including the Ohio State University (OSU) Labs in Life, working research laboratories created through a partnership with The Ohio State University and staffed by OSU researchers.

     In 2008, COSI was named America's number one science center for families by Parent Magazine. Since 1964, COSI has engaged with over 33 million people from all 50 states and around the world, both on-site and through its outreach programs.

     While COSI has experienced many growing pains and financial challenges, it has always been a landmark of the Columbus community.  With growth and engagement always at the forefront, efforts toward sustainability are close behind. 

     “Sustainability has been a hot topic for a long time,” Lobaugh told Central Ohio IFMA Chapter members at the start of their visit.  Primary goals of the facility are to reduce energy use, reduce water use, and reduce waste. 

     A long-term energy efficiency project at COSI has included lighting and HVAC upgrades, along with COSI on Wheels initiatives that have allowed for less fuel use and better time and energy management.  In 2010, the facility began its transition to LED lighting, which is nearly complete.  A full-energy audit of the whole building in 2008 (and again this year) were important moves toward increased sustainability.  As a result, COSI changed its BMS parameters for dehumidification set points, added demand control and load shedding capability to BMS, and retrofit HVAC systems with demand-controlled ventilation, converting constant volume AHUs to variable volume operation. 

     “It was a very expensive undertaking,” said Lobaugh, but well worth the price tag.  “With those energy efficiency upgrades… COSI has managed to save 1.2 million KWH in electrical consumption each year,” Lobaugh pointed out.

     Scheduling has become more efficient for COSI on Wheels, saving energy.  All material used during the visit are recycled and reused whenever possible.

    Water consumption has been on COSI’s mind as well.  A native prairie near the OSU greenhouse requires no mowing, fertilizing, watering or pesticides.  A rain garden just north of the west entry captures rooftop water for beauty and outdoor watering. 

     Motion-sensitive faucets, automatic hand dryers, and low-flow toilets also contribute to the facility’s green efforts.

     Future plans include using more native plants in landscaping operations, harvesting more rainwater for use at the facility, and making adaptations in order to conserve even more water than present efforts. 

     When it comes to waste management, Lobaugh says plans are rather simple – reduce, reuse, and recycle more, “sending even less to the landfill,” he said.

     Ideas are generated by an employee-led sustainability group. 

     So where will COSI be in the future?  Lobaugh hopes to return to composting with a commercially licensed composting facility, implement a single-point purchasing policy, and adding a fourth “R” to COSI’s sustainability efforts – “rethink”. 

     Following their sustainability discussion, Central Ohio IFMA Chapter members and their guests made their way into the new Dinosaur exhibit.  Because COSI was closed at the time of the tour, members were able to stop and peruse to their content, asking Lobaugh questions along the way.  The new gallery is a unique collaboration between COSI and a renowned natural history museum. Housed in a completely renovated space at the facility, the gallery features installations of world-class dinosaur exhibits from the American Museum of Natural History including a full-size cast skeleton of the massive Tyrannosaurus rex, a stunning 60-foot-long metallic model of the long-necked Apatosaurus, and interactive exhibits showcasing the latest scientific findings about this fascinating group of animals. The new gallery reveals the evolution of dinosaur biology, highlighting ongoing research by expert paleontologists.

    Then the diamond of the trip – a sneak peek at Silk Road, an exhibit that was not yet open to the public at the time.  “Unraveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World” brings to life the most celebrated trade route in human history through evocative sights, sounds, and objects, as well as intriguing interactives. Traveling the Silk Road, IFMA Chapter members were transported to four ancient cities: Xi’an, the capital of China’s Tang Dynasty; Turfan, a verdant oasis and trading outpost along the Silk Road; Samarkand, a center for prosperous merchants who thrived on the caravan trade; and Baghdad, a cosmopolitan hub of commerce and scholarship that flourished as a leading intellectual center of the time.  It was a treat like none other.

     Following the tour, Central Ohio IFMA Chapter members reconvened for some networking and discussion at the Land-Grant Brewery in Downtown Columbus.