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Downtown Library Designed to Be a Model of Efficiency

BY ANDREA SIEDSMA

For Art Castro, energy-efficient systems are becoming the norm today for designing and constructing new buildings. Sustainability, he said, is an integral part of modern architecture. So when the city of San Diego selected Castro’s firm Tucker Sadler Architects to help make the city’s future downtown main library a green building, it wasn’t a problem.

The $184 million library, scheduled to be completed in 2009, will include everything from water-efficient systems to natural lighting and electric vehicle charging systems. The city’s goal is to earn a silver rating for the library from the U.S. Green Building Council, which sets guidelines and standards for achieving green status in a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification program.

Castro said the project may even achieve gold status.

“One of our goals was to also exceed Title 24 requirements for energy efficiency and we have already exceeded that by about 20 percent,” said Castro, principal of Tucker Sadler and team director for the library project.

Title 24 is the state of California’s energy efficiency standards for residential and nonresidential buildings.

There were six areas Tucker Sadler addressed when helping to design the green library: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, environmental quality, and innovation and the design process.

The new design of the library, which began in 2002, also includes managing all the debris from the current site, a former police maintenance facility. Some of the materials already taken from the site have been salvaged and taken to a recycling center.

“When we talk about sustainability design it’s also about the construction process,” Castro said. “As users of the building we will have containers for cans, paper and other recyclables. We also have to be careful in the selection of the materials we use for the construction of the library to make sure they are not toxic. We will also use recycled materials.”


Energy Efficient Elements

The new library will include a storm water management system that will treat runoff from the rain, as well as a reclaimed water irrigation system and waterless urinals. All the building’s power, lighting and mechanical systems will be fully integrated, which will make energy consumption much more efficient, as well as cut down on monthly energy bills. The library will include sensors that will provide proper lighting when natural lighting is not sufficient, and vice versa.

Tucker Sadler also has made provisions for the potential future installation of photovoltaics on the roof, including the library’s massive dome. Additionally, the library’s dome roof is expected to provide natural lighting.

The 366,094-square-foot, nine-story library will be located downtown between Park Boulevard, 11th Avenue and J and K streets, which is within walking distance for many of downtown’s residential neighborhoods and transportation stops for the trolley and buses.

The building was designed to include changing rooms and ample bike racks to encourage staff members to ride their bikes to work. The library, which will have two levels of underground parking for those who need to drive, will include refueling stations for rechargeable electric vehicles.

“Hopefully, the library will be a testament to the city’s desire to be responsible to the environment,” Castro said.

Besides cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions, energy-efficient buildings such as the new main library also make good business sense.

“The initial costs may be high but in the long run there is tremendous energy savings, especially with public buildings where it’s difficult to keep up the maintenance,” Castro said. “These types of public buildings have to last at least 50 years. By creating energy-efficient systems and best practices, it reduces maintenance costs and increases the overall longevity of the building.”


Measuring Effectiveness

The city is currently devising ways to measure the actual savings that will be achieved with the new library, according to Afshin Oskoui, director of the city’s engineering and capital projects department. Oskoui said the library project is in the final design stage. The next phase will include completing the financial review of the design and fund raising.

So far, the city has secured $80 million from the downtown redevelopment agency Centre City Development Corp., $20 million from state grants and about $3 million from private donations for the new main library. The city needs to raise at least $85 million more. A construction date hasn’t been set, but Oskoui anticipates that to happen sometime later this year.

The new library is part of the city’s ongoing sustainable buildings initiative it first adopted in 2003.

“The city has been moving toward using more environmentally friendly systems,” Oskoui said. “A project like the library just brings a whole different element to the sustainability of the facility. As we get into this project we will look at the life-cycle costs and then analyze the longevity of the economics and operation of the facility as we put future (green) programs together.”

Besides being fiscally and environmentally responsible, the city is also setting a green building standard for the industry, Oskoui said.

“By the city building this green library we can set an example for the private development industry to look at these models that make environmental and economic sense,” he said. “We want to have manufacturers, builders and designers who have put these sustainable energy practices into place.”


Andrea Siedsma is a freelance writer for the San Diego Business Journal.

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