Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Designing Green Buildings

4:00-5:15 Designing Green Buildings

Speakers: Anne Larsen, Director for Facilities Planning and Technology, Hunter College Libraries; Marcia Gross, Library Director, North Adams Public Library; Ken Best, Architect, Drummy, Rosane and Anderson

Anne Larsen brief Bio

Anne began her talk by communicating her passion for Green design. Any library project, regardless of size, can become LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. The words "Green" and "Sustainability" have become buzz words, in fact, they have become sexy. Anne, however, is appalled at what passes for 'Green' today. Building a Green library is the best thing you can do for your community and your library. There are members of the building committee who will advocate those sexy features of the green building.

You should sweat the little stuff because some members will not think about certain issues that pertain to green technologies. Anne gives the example of considering non-toxic finishes for the children's room, electric hand dryers over towels in the bathroom, or motion lighting that might not be needed or desired in all areas as some areas need lighting all the time.

Anne asks us to consider if we would use toxic materials in building a library. Her point is that we do not consider how many items are made of toxic material, such as anything with Scotchguard. What Anne proposes is that we get advice in pursuing sustainable design. We need "Green" consultants since there is too much to know on our own, and too much to know to depend on an architect.

Even lighting should be considered by experts. Lighting is directly linked to waste, energy and the environment. Anne does, however, warn that we must be willing to make compromises. Not all buildings can have a vegetative roof. Not all green initiatives need to be used in the building. The idea is to make good decisions, but make decisions that work. Collaboration is also key to good, sustainable design. LEED is not easy to obtain, especially a higher level (Silver, Gold, Platinum) but a goal all libraries should strive to achieve.

Marcia Gross, Library Director, North Adams Public Library
Information on North Adams Public Library achieving LEED certification

Marcia discussed the difficulties of turning the North Adams Public Library from an energy inefficient building into a LEED building.

Building project began in 1999 when NAPL hired an architect for the preliminary design. In 2002 NAPL made a design to go green. The decision came when someone proposed putting air conditioning on the roof of the library. This was universally thought to be unacceptable because of a Bed and Breakfast next door, and a middle school across the street. Geothermal heating and cooling was considered as an alternative. It was then decided to become USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) LEED certified.

NAPL decided to go green to reep economic benefits. Marcia also wanted a safe library and reduce the impact of the library on the environment. NAPL is on the state and national records of historic sites. LEED can help get recognition, but more importantly, it can be done while maintaining historical importance.

The NAPL consulted on geothermal and photovoltaic power as forms of renewable energy. What will all this cost? Marcia says Design costs =.5%, Documentation and fees =.7% (about $8,000-$70,000), Commissioning = 1% of the overall cost.
Not every aspect is LEED certified. Marcia says the toilets are low water usage, but not LEED recognized, as are the parking lot lights. This is in line with what Anne was saying about choosing what is important for you, but proceed to make as many changes to green as possible.

Article on NAPL with pictures and discussion can be found here: Green Building case Studies

Most impressive of all is that 100% rehabilitation of the original building: the entire existing shell was kept intact. 50% of materials were diverted from the landfill. Even the exterior brownstone was recycled by turning it over to an artist to build "fireplaces" for display around the library. Even the staircase was sold for reuse (sold on e-bay).

Ken Best, Architect, Drummy, Rosane and Anderson

Ken explains that there were some hurdles to the design. Everybody was new to the LEED community. In the design community there was a lack of sharing. Inexperience with LEED became challenging in unearthing how to proceed.
There were some basic strategies. LEED does seem to favor (or find prevalence and relevance) in urban sites. NAPL with the help of Ken decided on geothermal heating and cooling, photovoltaic panels and overall energy efficiency. The LEED initiative still maintained the beauty of the building, confirmed in an interior photo that Ken paused and ruminated over.

This type of project requires special organization. There is a different design process--integrated design. These factors include a building committee, the architect (one who can work on LEED projects), landscape architects, engineers (civil, mechanical, electrical), a cost estimator (especially on a limited budget), and a commissioning agent. The earlier you make decisions in the design phase, the less money you will have to pay since there will be less cost impact required for design changes.

Public Involvement is important, too. There are many people who are knowledgeable and passionate about green design. Public education is important. It is important to hold seminars on green design. Possible topics might include: native plants, animal habitats, energy efficiency, storm water management, and reduce, reuse and recycle. Some people might not understand the importance of green design, or understand the costs. Talking points help get the public involved and gives them an opportunity to relate to the larger picture of green initiatives.

Regardless of what you are trying to achieve, or which LEED rating you want to acquire, aim high. Templates are required for LEED points. Not all the points will be accepted in determining your LEED rating. Some templates include descriptions of diverted construction waste, a diverted material description, recycling hauler and location, and procedures for monitoring flow of materials. The trouble is that these documents are lengthy and hard to keep track of. A material may impact many areas of the checklist. Windows, for example, may include recycled content, manufactured and harvested within 500 miles, energy efficiency, solar heating, daylighting and views, low VOC sealants and controlability of systems. Because of the complicated procedures required for installing new technologies there should be a commissioning agent to make sure everything is working properly. Especially when it comes to pumps, items and works could potentially be installed improperly.

Other things to consider include modeling systems such as computer modeling to see what models of design would increase energy efficiency to enhance points received from LEED board. Daylight modeling, acoustic analysis, and paperless paperwork to reduce the carbon footprint.

Needless to say, LEED certification process is not easy. In fact, it is time consuming, tough and is more expensive than traditional methods of construction. Ken explains that it is worth every minute and the effort it takes to achieve. LEED certification will pay for itself many times over. I am surely interested and hope more libraries pursue it, but I can see how it can easily consume your routine. It takes a strong commitment and that commitment should come from every level, at every stage.

Information on USGBC

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