February 16, 2018

LJ Design Institute Held at Arlington Public Central Library

Librarians and architects gather to discuss Going Green

  • Libraries ultimate green machine
  • Green design possible with tight budgets
  • Building new/renovating costs almost equal

LJ’s latest Design Institute drew some 90 librarians, architects, vendors, and board members to the spacious, light-filled Arlington Public Central Library, VA, for a daylong seminar on green design May 8. As District of Columbia Public Library head Ginnie Cooper, noted, however, libraries are the ultimate example of sustainability, “where people reuse and reuse and reuse.”

Given the economic downturn, the discussion turned to renovation of existing buildings, though many communities still have funds to build anew. Even libraries that don’t have capital funds right now “can use this time to do a master plan,” said Cooper. Arlington PL’s Steven Carr, director of innovation and service design, pointed out that green design is also about saving money, something that can bring library funders on board.

In fact, he said, “the latest [LEED] survey shows savings of over 29% [for LEED buildings] over baseline costs for other buildings.” Carr, who has the distinction of being the first LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) librarian in the country (one of only three), discussed the LEED process and points system.

In addition to Carr, the seminar drew on the expertise of half a dozen architectural firms and several furniture/interiors vendors. Architects led breakout sessions based on design “challenges” submitted by attendees. They also participated on a panel moderated by Cooper on “Green Design in Hard Times” that stressed the transformative power of sustainable design in changing the way people think and behave.

On the subject of renovate or build, PSA-Dewberry’s Marlene Shade told attendees, “We need to look at older buildings heartlessly to see if they’re worth preserving.” Historic buildings are “thermally inefficient,” Tappé Associates’ Jeff Hoover pointed out. “The library can be like an old car, a wonderful piece of art and culture, but I don’t want to use it as my regular car.” Nevertheless, Peter Gisolfi (Peter Gisolfi Associates) noted that in his experience in New York State, costs were “identical” for building anew or renovating.

There was consensus on several issues, including the move away from the internationalist style of architecture and a return to regionally adapted buildings, the need for an overall master plan, and the value of LEED. As Drayton Fair (Lerner Ladds + Bartels) said, LEED ensures “you keep up your standard” both in new construction and existing buildings. “[It’s] a wonderful tool for keeping an eye on the store.” Nevertheless, LEED certification for a building is determined by a “third party,” so Peter Bolek (Holzheimer Bolek + Meehan Architects) smartly advised “shoot for more [LEED] points than you think you’re going to need.”

In addition to Arlington PL, LJ’s partners in the daylong program included Lyrasis (formerly SOLINET and PALINET) and the District of Columbia Public Library. The event was sponsored by BCWH Architects, Holzheimer Bolek + Meehan Architects, Lerner, Ladd + Bartels, Peter Gisolfi Associates, PSA-Dewberry, and Tappé Associates, as well as AGATI Furniture, DEMCO Library Interiors, and LucaLight, who participated in a vendor fair.

Click here for photo gallery.


Francine Fialkoff About Francine Fialkoff

Francine Fialkoff (ffialkoff@gmail.com) spent 35 years with LJ, and 15 years at its helm as Editor and Editor-in-Chief. For more, see her Farewell Editorial.