Shipping Containers are Clever

Buildings made out of shipping containers? Yep. I’m in love with this idea, here are two library examples:

BiebBus (via GreenDiary):

BiebBus is a mobile library that has been specifically built to squeeze in narrow streets and to attract children and consequently inculcate the value of reading in them.

BiebBus is actually a shipping container that can pop-up and create two levels in the library. The lower level houses all the books and even though it looks like a tight fit, 20 people can stand around the 100 meter book shelf that is home to over 7000 books. The upper level is where children can sit, and read the books. To make it fun, the floor is made of glass – not just simple glass, but a a sort of magnifying glass which makes the kid look bigger. There are huge windows on the upper level so that there is enough natural light and the inquisitive ones can look outside. Cool lights and bean-bags complete the “reading-space”. 35-40 children can sit comfortably and lost themselves in the written word.”

The Contertainer (via Inhabitat):

“The Contertainer is a poly-clinic and public library designed by Indonesian firm, dpavilion architects, that repurposes these adventurous vessels to house books, which serve as “windows” to the world at large. The name for the health clinic and public libraryis an amalgam of two words: container and entertainer, which reflects its goal of providing a better quality of living for those who have little money.”


Integrated Building Design Article in LJ

Super excited that my article about Integrated Building Design (IBD), “A Whole Systems Approach: Integrated Building Design,” is in the current issue of Library Journal!!

Rebecca T. Miller, Executive Editor @LJ, had asked me to write this article last year after the LJ Design Institute in South Carolina. I had insisted on asking the panels I moderated about IBD and got a mixed bag of responses from panelists but Rebecca was interested in hearing more.

Writing the article gave me an excellent excuse to talk to some amazing people:

-Victor Canseco, LEED AP and Principal at Sandpebble Builders, Inc. from Southampton, NY: Victor is passionate in an old school way about integrated building design. Speaking with a builder was fantastic as I usually don’t get face time with that side of a project. He really drove home how feasible IBD is and how smart it is for publicly funded projects. Plus I think he’s a pretty fabulous human being as well so there’s that…looking forward to presenting with Victor and his colleagues at the 2011 New York Library Association Conference in Saratoga Springs, NY!

-Amanda Aspenson, LEED AP and Designer with Meyer Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd. out of Minneapolis, MN let me talk her ear off! We totally geeked out about IBD and I so appreciated her energy and enthusiasm around the topic. Amanda worked on the IPD Case Studies document cited in the article which I think is inspiring and really gives one the sense that IBD is doable for libraries of all shapes and sizes. Big thank you to Mr. Jeffrey Scherer, founding principal at MSR for connecting me with Amanda! *(P.S. Looking forward to presenting with Jeffrey at the PLA & ALA Conferences in 2012!! More on that soon!)

-Rick McCarthy, a principal architect with PSA-Dewberry, based in Elgin, IL, is not only a library architect but a library trustee which brings a really special angle to the conversation of stakeholder intersections. Rick’s long standing support of sustainably designed buildings is another stroke of luck for me in writing this article.

-David Moore, senior project architect at McMillan Pazdan Smith, based in Greenville, SC was the first person I interviewed and probably one of the most pragmatic people I’ve met. His real world wrangling of library projects with a host of complications and fairly fantastic outcomes was very useful to draw on as I got started writing the article.

I’m relieved the article is finally out there. I can’t wait to hear the feedback. I’m hoping a few brave souls out there give IBD a try for their projects. If there is anyone out there who wants to talk more about this just let me know, I’m very intrigued by the potential of IBD (if you haven’t already picked up on that…) and excited to see some libraries give it a go!

Living Building Challenge

A local organization, the Omega Institute, just accomplished what many people have said was impossible – they are one of the first two projects to be certified by the Living Building Challenge (LBC).

The LBC goes way beyond LEED, “it defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today and acts to diminish the gap between current limits and ideal solutions. This certification program covers all building at all scales and is a unified tool for transformative design, allowing us to envision a future that is Socially Just, Culturally Rich and Ecologically Restorative.”

A LBC building must be net-zero energy, net-zero water, non-toxic, provide for habitat restoration on adjacent sites, and urban agriculture is mandated.

One of the most important features of LBC is that it measures the actual performance of buildings. Basically this means that a year after a building was built, measurements are taken to ensure that it is, in fact, net zero in terms of energy and water, etc. This is a big distinction from existing requirements like LEED and CA’s Title 24 which measure performance models and do not hold projects accountable to live up to those models.

LBC has seven performance categories, or ‘Petals’: Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity and Beauty. Petals are subdivided into a total of twenty Imperatives:

  • Limits to Growth
  • Urban Agriculture
  • Habitat Exchange
  • Car Free Living
  • Net Zero Water
  • Ecological Water Flow
  • Net Zero Energy
  • Civilized Environment
  • Healthy Air
  • Biophilia
  • Red List
  • Embodied Carbon Footprint
  • Responsible Industry
  • Appropriate Sourcing
  • Conservation + Reuse
  • Human Scale + Humane Places
  • Democracy + Social Justice
  • Rights to Nature
  • Beauty + Spirit
  • Inspiration + Education

The project cannot contain any of the following Red List materials or chemicals:

  • Asbestos
  • Cadmium
  • Chlorinated Polyethylene and Chlorosulfonated Polyethlene
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • Chloroprene (Neoprene)
  • Formaldehyde (added)
  • Halogenated Flame Retardants
  • Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
  • Lead (added)
  • Mercury
  • Petrochemical Fertilizers and Pesticides
  • Phthalates
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
  • Wood treatments containing Creosote, Arsenic or Pentachlorophenol

When I visited Omega this summer they mentioned the Red List and how they had to consult an eight page list of banned materials when buying carpeting for their classroom space. I asked if this was burdensome, “not at all, it’s what is best for the people who use our space.”

Bravo to Omega for taking this leap and being a leader. Showing others what could be is a powerful thing.

New Landmark Libraries

Check out this opportunity from Library Journal:

Contact: Library Journal
Rebecca Miller


More at

New York, NY, September 9, 2010— Library Journal magazine has opened the submission period for New Landmark Libraries, a project that will identify new U.S. public library buildings constructed between 2005 and 2010 that demonstrate excellence in (1) design and construction, (2) response to community context and constraints, (3) sustainability, (4) functionality, (5) innovation, and (6) beauty and delight. Projects to be considered include new construction, major expansions, and substantial renovations.

The New Landmark Libraries project seeks to discover groundbreaking public library buildings and publicize their achievement. The project will establish a set of standards for library leaders to address as they build, and, as a side effect, strengthen the capacity of communities to design and build excellence into their public library facilities.

“Wonderful libraries are opening every day, despite the down economy,” noted Editor-in-Chief Francine Fialkoff. “For several years now, LJ has been leading Design Institutes and publishing a Library by Design supplement focusing on innovative library design. Now, we’d like the public and other experts to weigh in and help us identify the libraries that are the setting the tone for the future.”

Submissions will be accepted online at through November 15, 2010 and will be reviewed by a panel of experts from Library Journal as well as the library and architecture fields. Selected libraries will be included in a spring 2011 issue of Library Journal as well as online.

For more information and submission guidelines, visit LJ and SLJ are publications of Media Source Inc., which also owns Horn Book and Junior Library Guild.

About Library Journal

Library Journal is the oldest and most respected publication covering the library field. Considered to be the “bible” of the library world, LJ is read by over 100,000 library directors, administrators, and staff in public, academic, and special libraries. LJ is a Media Source Inc., publication.