Sustainable Thinking: Passageways to Better Buildings, Budgets & Beyond

2012 ALA Conference in Anaheim, CAThe countdown to the 2012 American Library Association Conference in Anaheim, CA has begun!

On the morning of Monday, June 25th I will be presenting with Jeffrey Scherer, architect extraordinaire, and Susan Benton, CEO of the Urban Libraries Council. Our topic: Sustainable Thinking: Passageways to Better Buildings, Budgets & Beyond.

In spirit, Louise Schaper will also be with us. She is an original member of our panel that will not be able to make it out to California but she is a driving force behind the content that will be presented.

We will be talking about the importance of thinking sustainably throughout your organization, not just when it comes to your facility.

This morning I spent some time working on the presentation. I’ll be handling Louise’s content as well as my own so wanted to get more familiar with her slides. Very struck by how well Louise can articulate the importance of “walking the walk” not just “talking the talk.” She provides excellent examples of how to infuse the ideals of sustainability throughout the culture of the library as an organization that I’m excited to have the opportunity to talk about at ALA this year!

As always, I am looking forward to connecting in-person with so many of you I get to talk with online through this web site, the Sustainable Libraries Facebook page and the Sustainable Librarians Group on LinkedIn. Please come up and introduce yourself! The more of us who know each other the more we can accomplish for the profession!

Greening Meetings

Maybe it’s just me but I feel like I go to a lot of meetings, a lot of workshops and a fair number of conferences. I was struck this year by the obviousness of those facilities and organizations that have made an effort to make more sustainable facility and operational choices in the context of the “meeting experience.”

  • paper handouts vs. online referrals to handouts
  • the quality of the plates, cups, forks/spoons/knives, napkins provided
  • individual plastic water bottles
  • quality or (heavenly absence of) “giveaways” – bags, notepads, pens
  • recycling for cans and bottles
  • snack choices

While it may seem minor in some cases all of these things contribute to a meeting/workshop/conference experience. Here’s how my mind was working this year, I forgot my stainless steel water bottle at an event recently and had to break down and buy a bottle of water. I had to carry it around for hours, literally, until I found a recycling receptacle.  I was actually distracted by this, my mind was constantly on the look out! This was at a conference with hundreds of people attending, how many of them didn’t hold on to their bottles until they found it? That’s probably hundreds of bottles just thrown in the trash.

I actually had a visceral reaction when I realized I’d have to use a Styrofoam plate at one of our own, catered, events. How to rectify this? I’m suggesting that next year this is part of our contract with the caterer, that plates, napkins and utensils contain recycled content.

As consumers we can enact change. Libraries spend a lot of money in communities, if we start demanding specific sustainable aspects we can change how people do business.

Don’t be complacent, fill out that workshop evaluation form and suggest healthier, more sustainable options. Planning an event? Check out:

Greening & Historic Preservation

Greening & Historic Preservation – Top Ten Tips

  1. Know Your Building: Many older building have passive heating and cooling systems designed right into them. Learn how your building/home works so that you do not prevent these systems from working (example: operable windows, natural ventilation).
  2. Find Photos of the Building in its Prime: Photos may reveal awnings and plantings that helped shade the building that should be added back to the design to maximize natural cooling capacity.
  3. Whole Building Design:When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – John Muir, founder, Sierra Club: In planning a renovation or expansion project for a historic building learn how the building’s systems work together, retain building materials where possible, recycle what you cannot reuse.
  4. Respect the Windows! Old windows were fabricated from old wood. It’s generally denser and lasts longer than the new wood used for modern windows. Repair and maintain them when possible rather than replacing.
  5. Reveal Natural Lighting: Look for transom lights, fanlights and skylights that have been painted over or covered up and restore them to maximize natural light in the space.
  6. Use What You Already Have! Inspect, maintain and repair your existing roof.
  7. Beware Moisture: When insulating interior walls be careful not to create an environment where more moisture is created/released as this can damage building materials (example: when insulating stone/brick wall structures the exterior wall will be colder than it was previously, slowing the process of evaporation of wetness on the surface, and consequently causing it to stay damp and leading to damage).
  8. Insulate Unfinished Basements / Crawlspaces: Unfinished spaces beneath the ground floor with rugged walls and dirt, brick, or fieldstone foundations? Install the insulation on the basement ceiling or between the first floor joists. The insulation’s vapor barrier must be facing up.
  9. Diminish Solar Installation Visibility: Consider installations that do not harm building materials (free standing) or those that are building materials themselves (solar shingles).
  10. Consult an Expert: No one is expected to know everything! Find preservation experts that can help you balance sustainable building practices with preservation and restoration techniques to help you achieve these two goals. They really are complementary goals, not competing goals!


Onondaga Follow up

Back from Syracuse and thinking hard about two issues that came up after the Greening presentation at the Onondaga County Public Library staff development day – green roofs and the Energy Star program.

I’ve been pondering my answers to two questions that were asked from the group after my presentation, I don’t think I answered either of them as thoroughly as I should have.

The first was asking me to clarify my stance on green roofs in the Northeast – my perception has been it’s not a great fit.  I answered quickly but realized I should revisit my opinion after a representative from Onondaga County spoke and said they are widely installing green roofs – they must have researched this thoroughly so I’ll be looking in to this more to understand that.

The other comment/question that got me thinking was an astute staff person who had been following the stories surrounding the Energy Star program – revelations that it is not as thorough a rating/standard program as it should be.

Over the course of the next week I’ll post more about these two items.

Overall the feedback I received after the presentation was pretty good. Many people had a spark in their eye as they asked questions about lighting, windows, recycling and purchasing. Others seemed apprehensive about costs and how to move forward with the whole “green team” idea that I shared. Regardless, people were thinking and that’s always a good thing!

Probably not presenting again until the fall between our trip to France coming up at the end of this month, a new executive director starting at MHLS in July and the massive overhaul of our web site at work. I’m looking forward to the chance to sit back and refine my presentation and get up to speed on some things (like green roofs!) that maybe my knowledge is aging on. It’s amazing how fast green technologies are developing and evolving. It’s exciting!

Greening Presentation for Onondaga County Public Library 5.7.10

Library Journal 2010 Design Institute @Atlanta

Just returned from the Library Journal’s 2010 Design Institute in Atlanta, GA where I moderated a panel: Sustainable Libraries with or without LEED. On the panel with me:

We tackled whether or not LEED is “worth it” (yes); will it cost more (upfront, yes; long term – probably not); “must-have” green features (best answer: building owners willing to make the commitment to green the project); and “green” features to skip (showers in libraries to get the LEED point for bike racks and preferred parking spots for hybrid vehicles).

During the “green must-haves” portion of the discussion David Moore took me by surprise when he focused on water conservation. I was expecting everyone to focus on renewable energy (geothermal, solar) or energy efficient  options as that is what has been most important here in New York, however, given that the overwhelming majority of the audience was from the South East (Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina) they were acutely attuned to the recent drought. Stories were told of people trying to capture the condensation off the air conditioning tubes for a little extra water and using buckets to capture the water coming out of the shower as it warmed up to a reasonable temperature. David expressed that he would be hard pressed not to incorporate water conservation (rain catchment, gray water recycling for toilets, landscaping etc.) features into future projects.

I’ll share more thoughts from this event this week but just wanted to share a bit about the experience as it is so fresh in my mind this morning!