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!

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!

Greening the WOMM Experiment

This month marks the launch of a little experiment at our System. I’m using our Word-of-Mouth Marketing (WOMM) Experiment to spread the word about what a good investment the library is in the context of “green.”

Our WOMM Experiment started last year when our Marketing Committee decided to put into practice what we kept hearing is the simplest, most effective (and cheapest) way to get the word out – word of mouth.

So our 66 libraries agreed to all promote one product/service/idea System wide for an entire month with a little centralized help. To help them out we’d do a little 30-second training or 5-question quiz to raise frontline staff awareness. We gave each library a circ desk poster with talking points on the back that staff could use as a cheat sheet if patrons asked questions (feedback on this was that it was simple yet brilliant!) and supplied libraries with sample newsletter blurbs, press releases and web graphics.

This was pretty easy to track when we promote a database but how about with concepts?

So this month is “Save Green by Going Green @your library”:

Our Marketing Committee agreed to this topic after my System-wide Green Your Library Challenge idea got shot down by one of our five counties. (Why yes, I was incredibly bummed about this!) So I sold it as a one-month commitment rather than a full year by demonstrating that this topic not only gives libraries the opportunity to convey to their communities how cost effective/efficient they are, it also gives libraries an opening to focus more internal attention on sustainable building and operations choices. This helps us transition our statewide advocacy message through the timeline for the passage of the NYS budget and allows for a new “tweak” on the messages we’ve been using for the past two months that libraries are a good use of public tax dollars. (If you’re not in NY you may not know but we’re battling a 10% cut that ultimately puts our funding level back to 1994 levels…)

We showed libraries three different ways to approach the sale of our message, “Save Green by Going Green”:

1. Patrons who use libraries “save green” by minimizing the volume of “stuff” they purchase, and “go green” since they reduce what they are having shipped to their home, drive around less to purchase “stuff” and dispose of less “stuff.” Check out these videos for more on this:
o The Story of Stuff
o Collaborative Consumption

2. Patrons can learn how to live a more sustainable (aka green) lifestyle through the library’s collection and programming. We’ve provided a list of display and programming ideas for libraries to use when planning.

3. Libraries that have invested funds into sustainable building features (solar, geothermal, daylighting, etc.) can use this opportunity to spotlight themselves as a model for people to learn from and to tout the cost savings earned through the use of these features, reinforcing how well they’ve used tax payer dollars. If the library is interested in exploring their sustainable facility options, I’m conducting a “10 Ways to Green Your Library” workshop to coincide with the release of the State Construction Aid applications in April. Energy efficient projects are eligible under the construction grant application guidelines.

The circ desk poster is a bit experimental – for the first time ever I incorporated a QR Code. I embedded a link to the New York Library Association’s Library Value Calculator to give patrons a chance to see how smart they are for using the library!

I’m coaching libraries to keep it simple. Pick one of the three themes and go with it but drive home the message that as tax payers and regular library users – whether by personal use or good, sustainable facility choices made by the library – we all save green when we go green through the library.

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…

Paper: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

As promised, here are the ideas the staff at MHLS came up with for reducing paper waste:

Reduce
o Print only when necessary
o Use narrow margins on Word documents
o Check to see if the printer you use can print double sided
o When making copies use the 1-2-sided/double/duplex option
o Avoid a cover page when faxing, if possible!
o Can you read a journal online rather than having a hard copy sent to you?
o Getting junk mail? Call the company and have your name removed from their mailing list
o Consider online handouts rather than printed packets for workshops and consultations
o Proofread before printing or copying; use the “Print Preview” function before printing
o Develop a page on the web site for frequently requested information
o Use email rather than mail when possible
o When replying to an e-mail, delete previous e-mail correspondence in the body of the e-mail in order to eliminate a large amount to be printed should the recipient choose to print your response.

Reuse
o If you have your own printer, print drafts and reference material out on scrap paper
o If you share a printer with a co-worker, agree on one tray being filled with scrap paper
o Reuse envelopes
o Use cut up scrap paper for note taking/scratch paper

Recycle
o We posted the recycling rules for MHLS by every printer and copier:

o   MHLS recycles all paper and card board

o   There are blue recycling bins on all floors

o   Eligible for recycling:

o    All office paper, including paper with staples

o    File folders

o    Envelopes

o    Newspapers

o    Journals/magazines

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.

Public Libraries & Local Governments

This publication is a statement on the significant role of public libraries in achieving local sustainability.

Last week the Urban Libraries Council released “Partners for the Future: Public Libraries and Local Governments Creating Sustainable Communities“:

“This report demonstrates how public libraries help local governments achieve sustainability goals in each of the three triple bottom line components* and is intended to both celebrate successes to date and provide a roadmap for  partnerships that are built to last.”

This publication is a call to action for public libraries around the country to be talking to their local municipalities about planning for sustainability. It won’t happen without planning. Many municipalities are taking the lead, particularly in urban areas. They may or may not think to include the library in their plans. Make sure your library is “at the table” for these discussions and wholeheartedly buys in, there is nothing to lose and much to gain. This publication gives you the talking points you need to begin to convince municipal leaders that libraries are essential to a sustainability initiative.

Maybe your municipality has not started to plan a sustainable future for your community yet, the library could take the lead or start the discussion!

*

  • Economic Vitality
  • Environmental Quality
  • Social Equity

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? ;-)

Employee Health & Productivity

A study out of Michigan State University earlier this year provides some solid data on the link between green buildings and increased employee health and productivity.

Effects of Green Buildings on Employee Health and Productivity” by Amanjeet Singh, MS, Matt Syal, PhD, Sue
C. Grady, PhD, MPH, and Sinem Korkmaz, PhD was published in the peer reviewed journal, the American Journal of Public Health in July 2010. They focused on the effects of indoor environmental quality (IEQ). IEQ is broader than IAQ (indoor air quality) in that it encompasses  all aspects of the indoor setting including air quality, ventilation, thermal comfort, visual comfort (lighting and views), ergonomics and noise.

“… we found that improved IEQ contributed to reductions in perceived absenteeism and work hours affected by asthma, respiratory allergies, depression, and stress and to selfreported improvements in productivity. These preliminary findings indicate that green buildings may positively affect public health.”