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!

Code Green

Very excited about attending the Code Green Workshops tomorrow and Tuesday. These are the workshops that came out of my work on the “Code Green” Committee for the Preservation League of New York State and the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA).

Love the idea of professionally melding sustainable features with historic preservation, because really, historic preservation is the original sustainable option!

I’m particularly excited about one of the first lectures, “Slow Food in the Fast Lane,” which promises to introduce the inherent properties older buildings have that make them more energy efficient than new construction.  Also looking forward to hearing about projects where geothermal was installed.

What I liked most about the conversations at the planning committee meeting was the commitment from those around the table – builders, architects, engineers, code enforcers – to treat these buildings as whole systems rather than separate parts. I think it is integral to making sustainable buildings that they are viewed and treated holistically. Each part, feature, system impacts another and until we understand how they interact and influence one another we stand in the way of sustainable buildings.

It’s like assessing library operations – to understand how service point adjacency impacts workflow and supervision is similar to understanding how windows can impact HVAC decisions and vice versa.

Check out the Code Green bibliography to read more sustainable historic preservation.

Sustaining

I haven’t posted in awhile, not by choice. In January I got a new boss. Shortly after that 30% of my coworkers were laid off. Shortly after that I made it my mission to fight the heck out of the New York State Governor’s proposed 10% cut to library aid.

Library Systems in NYS have been kicked around for the past 15 years, it’s been a lot worse since the economic downturn. It’s hard to believe that the NYS budget has doubled since 1998 but library aid went down by 25%. We’ve been cut five times in just the last two years.

I’m a fan of common sense. I’m a fan of people who take personal responsibility for themselves. It is not common sense to cut libraries during economic hard times because libraries are where people who take responsibility for themselves and their families go to make it through.

Using the library’s computers and Internet connection is a lifeline for job seekers. Prepping kids for school when your family can’t afford to send them to pre-school increases a child’s earning potential twenty years later. Having the opportunity to relax with a book or a movie after working in a place that is under constant threat of lay offs should not be reserved for those that can purchase said movie from Amazon.

The same reason I started SustainableLibraries.org is why I believe in public libraries – we all have to work together to make a difference. It may sound hokey or naive but I really do believe that.

I believe in the library directors, staff, trustees and Friends Groups that I work with in the Mid-Hudson Library System because I see them change lives of people in their community for the better. Whether it be by providing great customer service, caring reference assistance, good collections, positive community events that bring neighbors together, helpful programs for people of all ages to do everything from get people’s taxes filed correctly to de-stressing with a yoga class.

SustainableLibraries.org was started as an extension of my day job where I help libraries find sustainable funding. I strongly believe that a very smart part of a truly sustainable funding strategy is a sustainable building, a focus on reduced operating costs through smart choices in facility construction, operations and programs.

Last year I found myself groaning every time someone whipped out the phrase “now more than ever” but I’m usin’ it this morning – libraries need to focus on sustainability – on all fronts – NOW MORE THAN EVER.

Our funding is decreasing, politicians are scrutinizing, users are relying on us. We have to make smart choices that sustain us for the long haul locally and globally.

A fact I used on Library Advocacy Day on Tuesday in our State’s capitol was that while state funding is decreasing at a record rate, local funding is holding firm. Local tax payers are voting to tax themselves for library services in their communities – statewide 97% of library budget votes passed in 2010. Local people get it, now we just have to help legislators hear from their constituents that they are supposed to represent up in Albany.

One thing I’ve learned is that legislators value “going green” right now. Regardless of political affiliation legislators have voted for more money to go to the energy research and development authority, green job creation and sustainable construction money than just about anything else.

We’ve got to get in on that.

Tie sustainable funding and “going green” together, trust me, it will pay off for you in one way or another.

BPA-Free Receipt Paper

Last year we saw a series of news stories on how our gas station receipts were toxic because of “BPA.” But it didn’t stop there, receipts from the ATM, the grocery store, at the mall and at the library also contain BPA. [BPA Receipts Bombshell (CBS); Cashiers May Face Special Risks From BPA (Science News); Another Reason You Don't Need Your Receipt (U.S. News & World Report)]

BPA, Bisphenol A, is a chemical that has been “used for more than 40 years in the manufacture of many hard plastic food containers such as baby bottles and reusable cups and the lining of metal food and beverage cans, including canned liquid infant formula. Trace amounts of BPA can be found in some foods packaged in these containers.” [1]

The Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry has stated that “when it comes to BPA in the urban environment, “the biggest exposures, in my opinion, will be these cash register receipts.” [2]

The man-made chemical has been shown in scientific experiments to mimic the hormone estrogen, and government reports in the US have, in the past, expressed relatively minor concern about exposure. However, the fact that BPA is found everywhere – in a study conducted in2009 by the US Health & Human Services Department it was found in 93% of all test subjects’ urine – the saturation of the chemical in our environment – and our bodies – has become a larger concern.

So large, in fact, that in September 2010 Canada officially declared BPA toxic. BPA is now on their toxic substances list based on concern about possible risk to fetuses and babies

Last year I came across an article about the Eugene Public Library which reported that the library had switched to BPA-free paper:

“When deciding whether to make the costly switch — the BPA-free paper costs 5 percent more — library staff members said they used the city’s “triple bottom line” standard, which assesses the best decision based on environmental, social and fiscal costs.[emphasis mine]The conclusion: Switching was the best option.

Looking ahead, the library hopes to make paper receipts a thing of the past.”

Bravo Eugene!!

An even bigger “Bravo!” to Multnomah County, also in Oregon, as they actually realized a cost savings through switching to BPA-free:

“Jeremy Graybill, marketing and communications director for the library, estimates it will save between $1,400 and $3,200 through its switch to BPA-free paper this fiscal year.

Graybill said it is tough to pinpoint the exact savings that will result from the change, since the library has yet to move through a whole year of inventory. But the library uses about 8,300 rolls of receipt paper annually, mostly as hold slips to direct patrons to books they’ve ordered. In its previous fiscal year, the library spent $10,000 on receipt paper. At the low end, the projected savings from the switch looks to be at least 14 percent.” [3]

So take a fresh look online or call your current receipt paper supplier, prices have come down on BPA-free paper throughout 2010 and I expect this trend to continue.

Make the switch, it’s the right thing to do for your staff and your patrons.

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.

“What does it mean to “be green”?

Nice, concise summary from Tufts University’s Office of Sustainability:

Being green is a commitment to:

1. discover best practices
2. innovate when solutions don’t exist
3. reduce waste and inefficiencies
4. adopt and embrace new habits
5. measure and celebrate progress.

You do these things every day; now try doing them with a green lens.



Furnaces and Boilers

Developing a survey for my member libraries this week to help me benchmark how much electricity, gas, and/or oil they are using in their libraries. Along the way I found this nice page on the Department of Energy’s web site: Energy Savers: Furnaces and Boilers.

A number of my libraries are facing the realities of having to replace their equipment and making the right choice seems easy as just about anything new is more efficient than what they have now. This site gives some great tips for making that decision be an even more energy efficient one that it might be if you just went with whatever your installer suggests.

“13 Amazing Facts About Green Roofs” [The Daily Green]

13 Amazing Facts About Green Roofs: Green roofs and living walls offer many benefits, including cooling buildings, reducing stormwater runoff, providing wildlife habitat, growing food and creating jobs.

“Charge It”

The June 7-June 13, 2010 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek had an article called “A New Meaning for the Phrase “Charge It” alerting the business community to the demands electric cars will have for power:

“Two chargers are needed for each car” – one at home and one at work.”

There’s an iPhone app for drivers of electric cars to locate chargers.

People are reporting “range anxiety” – the fear of being stranded with drained batteries.

As President Obama and the car industry march forward with the push for lessening America’s reliance on foreign oil more and more drivers will be looking for a place to “charge it.”

What if public libraries across the country became known for having charging stations? Not a bad marketing idea eh?

If you are lucky enough to be planning a new building, major expansion or just redoing your parking lot consider integrating a charging station into your plans, your community may (eventually) thank you!