Be Inspired by the West Vancouver Memorial Library!

It is also our goal to inspire others and share that becoming more sustainable can be accomplished one small step at a time.”
-Tara Matsuzaki, librarian, West Vancouver Memorial Library.


The West Vancouver Memorial Library recently became the first existing building in Western Canada, and the only library in Canada, to be awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification.

They didn’t just rack up points to get to LEED Existing Buildings: Operations & Management (O&M) Silver, they made an organizational commitment from the ground up to be more sustainable.

They have a Staff Green Team to help shape goals, develop procedures and find the resources to achieve their sustainable goals. They put their money where their mouth is and promote the ecologically-friendly behaviors of the staff: more than 50% of the staff bike, walk or use mass transit to get to work. They produced a “Green Commuting” poster to help show how they are leading by example. This ground-up approach provides buy-in throughout the organization. (For more on Green Teams check out SustainableLibraries.org posts about the Mid-Hudson Library System’s Green Team!)

The library adopted a Green Building Operations Policy. The stated goal of the policy is to guide the library towards “improving building performance, reducing costs, creating more productive and healthy work and public spaces as well as affording the Library the opportunity to take a leadership role in environmental stewardship for our community.” Inspired yet? You should be!

The policy guides decisions related to:

  • Purchasing
  • Housekeeping
  • Solid Waste Management (e.g. recycling and purchasing materials with recycled content)
  • Integrated Pest Management, Erosion Control and Landscape Management
  • Plumbing

The structure of the policy document itself is commendable as well, there is a “Performance Metric” section that helps define how to “implement, monitor and evaluate sustainable practices.” Check out the full policy here.

The library has made a concerted effort to manage the power consumption of their 56,000 square feet. Over the years there were a series of expansion projects that left the library with a variety of mechanical, electrical and roofing systems. “In 2010 we combined and upgraded the controls for our HVAC system, allowing us to run the system more efficiently and achieve a higher level of comfort.” They also replaced all single pane windows on one level with automated, energy efficient windows that are tied to their HVAC system to allow for air cooling. They also use a fairly awesome web-based energy management software to track their energy consumption! Check out their “Pulse Energy Dashboard.”

One of the many things I love about this library is that sustainability is written into their current long-range plan. After asking 1500 of their users what is most important to them for the library to focus on in the future, sustainability became one of their top strategic priorities. But nothing so direct as “we’ll have a green building.” Sustainability is woven throughout each priority, from staff and collection development, to communication and community partnerships. It is most clearly outlined in the priority “Manage Resources Wisely.” What taxpayer or donor wouldn’t respond well to that?

This is what SustainableLibraries.org is all about. Libraries of all types have a constant need to prove that we are a good return on investment to inspire our public and our donors to reinvest. Sustainable buildings, operations and programs are excellent ways to expand people’s understanding that we are good stewards of their tax dollars, their education, our environment and ultimately, our communities.

“Sustainability” should be threaded throughout an entire organization, not just its facility.

WVML is a shining example of how to do things right!

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.

Buildings are for People

Earlier this week I was at a library presenting a workshop for trustees (not a Greening Your Library session but a very fun Advocacy Boot Camp) in a beautiful community room overlooking Lake Mahopac. As we wrapped up and started to pack up our flip charts, laptop and data projector the next group who had reserved the space – an outside community group – was trickling in and setting up – what a popular place! As we overlapped in this space I overheard a snippet of a conversation that went a little like this:

“Our building is [stupid]. Can you believe the AC (air conditioning) came on today? It was like 3 degrees outside at lunch time! It’s controlled by a computer so we put gel ice packs on the thermostats to trick it and made the heat come on.”

I stopped in my tracks and thought, “She’s right, that is [stupid].” Everyone is losing out. The staff are unhappy and distracted (how long did it take them to come up with the ice pack trick?) which probably shows in their work and customer service habits. The building is confused and it’s systems are not optimized which probably means it costs more to heat and cool the building and increases the likelihood that the equipment will wear out sooner. The potential for damaging the building (what if that ice pack leaks and shorts out the thermostat?) increases when staff start to jerry-rig its systems. All of this adds up to money. Loss of productivity, building repairs, increase oil/gas use, increase electricity use…

Buildings are for people. Your facility operations should take this into account. From whether or not the environmental controls meet the needs of the people in the space to the cleaning products used – we have to find the balance between human comfort, pricing of products, utility costs and the staff time devoted to maintaining the buildings.

In one of my courses for my Sustainable Building Advisor certification a classmate of mine who previously had been a facility manager for a local college shared that in his tenure there the most frequent complaints from the faculty were temperature complaints, too hot in the classroom or too cold. He also said it was more psychological than related to physiology; which he “scientifically tested” by reporting back to complainants that he had made changes to the settings at their request when he really had not. He said 9 times out of 10 they were satisfied when he had actually not made a change at all.

I’ve found that the best facility operations managers are good listeners. They never discount a persons complaint without fully hearing them out, expressing that they will check into the issue and reporting back on actions (or phantom actions) taken to address the issue. Even if it is a phantom temperature change, if the employee is satisfied… great!

In some cases, hopefully not yours, there seems to be a significant disconnect between building occupants (library staff and patrons), building maintenance, and building management. Just as we all get together to identify priorities for services for the community we should also understand the purpose of our library buildings – they are here to serve just as we are.

This dialogue can help optimize your building, your staff and your budget.

Building management is a science unto itself however library directors do have a responsibility to manage all aspects of the library organization. Your building can impact staff productivity and morale and send an unspoken message to patrons. One of my professors in library school once said, “A building in visible disrepair sends an outward message of neglect – will the service inside be much better?”

I guess my point after these ramblings is: Aligning our service priorities with our facility priorities could be a bigger personnel, budgetary and public relations factor than you may think. Food for thought…

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.

Building Orientation

Last week we conducted a building orientation for all staff members. This idea came out of the MHLS Green Team. During one of our meetings our facilities guy was commenting on how a few staffers were consistently leaving on the lights at night which was wasting electricity. The conversation that followed revealed that some of us didn’t know where the light switches were for certain lights and others were not sure it was our job to turn them off (thinking there were still others in the building).

We designed an hour long program, limited it to 6 staff people at a time and did a couple of sessions to make sure everyone had a chance to participate. We stated it was mandatory (but that we knew they would come along even if it wasn’t!)

Before the sessions we implemented some signage we had agreed on and labeled all light switches.

We met around a table to begin and
1) Reviewed the “Building Basics”

  • building operating hours
  • alarm
  • opening and closing procedures
  • lighting basics

2) “Safety First” alerted staff to

  • emergency procedures
  • fire safety
  • some basic personal precautions to take to protect themselves when leaving the building after hours

3) MHLS “Goes Green” Challenge Results

  • shared the results of the Challenge in which they all took part (more than 120 ideas were shared!)
  • let everyone know some of the things that were already being done that had been suggested
  • what energy efficiency items have been included in our facility plan (new windows and solar panels)
  • reviewed the building recycling opportunities and guidelines
  • shared tips from Staff gathered through the Challenge:
    • “Top Ten Tips” for Conserving Energy – some ideas were very specific to our building but here are ones that work anywhere:
      • turn off computers and monitors at the end of every day
      • use the Power Options setting on PCs to help machines save energy while idle
      • unplug equipment used infrequently (pencil sharpeners, laminator)
      • use the stairs rather than the elevator
    • Paper: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Then we toured through the building, starting at the door everyone enters and leaves through. On each floor we pointed out:

  • how doors lock, when they should be locked
  • fire extinguishers
  • circuit breaker boxes
  • light switches
  • where lights could be shut off when no one is in the area
  • safety tips (like closing blinds on the first floor at the end of the day)

It went amazingly smoothly. Everyone “played along” and were helpful, coming up with more ideas along the way – motion detectors for the bathroom lights to help make sure lights are off when no one is in there, glow in the dark tape on key light switches, tips for using a fire extinguisher… it was great.

Have I mentioned yet how glad I am we did the MHLS Green Team? ;-)

Green Team Saves Us Money

Very cool thing happened this week as a result of starting the Green Team @MHLS – we’re saving money already.

Our organization is in some dire financial straits after five cuts in two years from New York State and thanks to the fact that NYS has released just 50% of our funds and we’re in the 9th month of our fiscal year. Not fun.

Our interim director and business manager have done a super human job of cutting back, freezing spending and keeping “the ship afloat” so far. I was able to show that a number of the ideas we came up with on the Green Team would save us operating costs (upgrades to the lighting, new windows, etc.) But we’re in such a tough spot that even relatively small investments ($1,500 for the lighting) are out of reach right now.

But the collective mind proved to be stronger than the individual once again as more of my coworkers got thinking about things they are involved with.

  • Our discussion about getting a water cooler that was less of an energy hog has resulted in the negotiation of not only a better water cooler but the company is waiving the lease fee.
  • In talking to the person in our business office about what logos to look for on paper and other office products to make sure they are as environmentally responsible as possible we poured over the office paper catalog and I longingly pointed to the FSC paper which was more expensive than what we were currently purchasing. She said  “I can get better prices than these” and she did. We’re now paying even less than we were before on a more environmentally responsible choice.

I’ve said a number of times what  great experience the Green Team has been but to finally see cost savings, even minor ones, AND good choices being made is really rewarding.

Winterize

Here in the northeast it’s time to start thinking about winterizing buildings. Here are my top 10 winterizing tips:

  1. Check doors and windows for air leaks.
  2. Have the furnace (or boiler) serviced so that it is operating a maximum efficiency.
  3. Check to make sure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.
  4. Ceiling fans should be set to push air down (clockwise).
  5. Put the storm windows back in if you’ve removed them
  6. Check the state of the insulation in the basement and attic. Replace any that looks worn out or add insulation where there is none.
  7. Insulate your pipes.
  8. Use metal-backed tape to seal up gaps in ductwork.
  9. Insulate outlets on the exterior wall.
  10. Check out the minimum interior temperature for working space in your state and program your thermostat.

Pyramid of Conservation

Ever read something that makes you go “YES! That’s what I’ve been trying to say!”? Well that happened to me recently when I was perusing an article by Lloyd Alter on PlanetGreen.com when I saw him describe what I’ve been calling the “Sustainability Spectrum“:

Billions of dollars are being, if not wasted, at least not effectively used as the salesmen come around trying to sell windows and solar panels. Everyone wants the sexy stuff and governments are subsidizing it with tax credits, but as we said earlier, the people handing out tax credits should insist that you don’t get money for fancy photovoltaics unless you do the cheap low hanging fruit first.

To support his point, Mr. Alter provides links to:


“Are Commercial LED Replacements Ready for Prime Time?”

Article from ecogeek.org:

“Although we are big proponents for LED lighting, the US Department of Energy has recently issued a couple of reports warning that many so-called replacement lamps for fluorescent fixtures are not performing at adequate levels. In most cases, fluorescent tubes are still a better choice, providing more lumens per watt than most LEDs. Although LEDs may eventually replace many other lighting options, they aren’t a magic bullet just because they’re LEDs. You should be careful and find out more about them before making the switch.”

Turn ‘em Off or Leave ‘em On?

Ever have this discussion with someone? Is it more energy efficient to leave lights on or turn them off?

Some speculate that the “start-up” energy it takes to turn on lights is more than it would take to just leave them on, others contend that of course you’d shut them off! Even if you’re just dodging out of your office to visit the WC?

The US Department of Energy weighs in:

Incandescent Lighting

Incandescent lights (or bulbs) should be turned off whenever they are not needed. Nearly all types of incandescent light bulbs are fairly inexpensive to produce and are relatively inefficient. Only about 10%–15% of the electricity that incandescent lights consume results in light—the rest is turned into heat. Turning the light(s) off will keep a room cooler, an extra benefit in the summer. Therefore, the value of the energy saved by not having the lights on will be far greater than the cost of having to replace the bulb.

Fluorescent Lighting

The cost effectiveness of turning fluorescent lights off to conserve energy is a bit more complicated. For most areas of the United States, a general rule-of-thumb for when to turn off a fluorescent light is if you leave a room for more than 15 minutes, it is probably more cost effective to turn the light off. Or in other words, if you leave the room for only up to 15 minutes, it will generally be more cost effective to leave the light(s) on. In areas where electric rates are high and/or during peak demand periods, this period may be as low as 5 minutes.

Fluorescent lights are more expensive to buy, and their operating life is more affected by the number of times they are switched on and off, relative to incandescent lights. Therefore, it is a cost trade-off between saving energy and money by turning a light off “frequently” and having to replace the bulbs “more” frequently. This is because the reduction in usable lamp life due to frequent on/off switching will probably be greater than the benefit of extending the useful life of the bulb from reduced use. By frequent we mean turning the light off and on many times during the day.

A 2008 article in Scientific American gives you license to turn off the lights:

A simple rule of thumb that balances both concerns is to shut off fluorescents if you’re planning to leave a room for more than five minutes, according to Francis Rubinstein, a staff scientist in the Building Technologies Department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division. Mary Beth Gotti, manager of the GE Lighting & Electrical Institute in Cleveland, agrees. For all practical purposes, “it almost always makes sense to turn the lights off,” Gotti says. “From an environmental standpoint, the best way to save energy is to turn off the things that you’re not using.”

Rubinstein notes that, even for fluorescents, the cost of electricity over a bulb’s lifetime far outpaces the cost of the bulb itself. “Even if you switch on and off a fluorescent light frequently,” he says, “the slight reduction in lamp life is a small effect relative to the energy savings you accomplish by being a good citizen.” Gotti adds that the reduction in lamp life from frequent on-and-off switching can often be counterbalanced by the extension of “calendar life”—the actual passage of time between lightbulb replacements—that results from using the bulb for fewer hours.