Library outshines itself with LEED Gold

Benefits to environment built up as branch grew

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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Did you know?

• More than 90 percent of the library space has natural daylight.

• Hands-free, low-flow plumbing fixtures reduce water usage by more than 41 percent.

photoThe Vancouver Community Library features what architect Adin Dunning calls "a ton of daylight."

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photoGold by design? The new Vancouver Community Library just received LEED Gold certification.

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A library is all about using materials over and over and over again. That's not enough to qualify as an energy-efficient, environmentally friendly facility, however.

When Vancouver's downtown library was recognized as a green building project, it was a result of design decisions and construction choices.

Regional library officials announced Friday that the new flagship branch has been awarded LEED Gold certification.

The Vancouver Community Library, 901 C St., actually overachieved in its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) ambitions, its architect said.

"We set a goal of LEED Silver," said Adin Dunning, an architect with The Miller Hull Partnership. "As we were tracking everything, we were falling into LEED Gold as a result of good decisions on long-term sustainability, and maintenance and operational efficiency."

Platinum is the highest LEED designation.

One of the library's hallmark design elements was what Dunning called "a ton of daylight."

"We had an opportunity to use a lot of glass," Dunning said by phone from his office in Seattle.

There are trade-offs, he noted.

"You get less insulation value, but you gain 'daylighting,'" Dunning said. The project also benefitted from rapid advances in window design, he said.

"Ten years ago, we couldn't have built that building," Dunning said. It became possible, he said, "because of evolving glass technology."

LEED standards, established by the U.S. Green Building Council, also emphasize conserving resources. More than 20 percent of the construction materials were recycled.

"Composite wood products come from recycled material," said consultant Ralph DiNola. "Steel has a highly recycled content. Carpeting can be made with recycled plastic, like milk bottles."

There also is an educational element built right into the library, and that can score LEED points. With so many young library users, "It's a great tool for education," said DiNola, a principal at the Portland office of Green Building Services.

System efficiencies mean a LEED Gold building is easier on the operating budget. The building opened to the public on July 17, 2011, and "We've been monitoring the energy bill for almost a year," Dunning said. "We did a lot of analysis and modeling, and it's great to see the energy bills coming into alignment" with projections.

Settling in

The first year is always when occupants try to figure out the best way to use a building, Dunning said.

But there is much more to the design, Dunning said, including user satisfaction.

"I was at the library a month ago, walking through the reading room facing the roof terrace," he said.

A woman who was writing in a notebook noticed him doing facilities-type stuff like evaluating the lighting, Dunning said.

"I told her I was an architect," Dunning said. "She said how inspirational it is to be in the building, and how much it has changed the way she works as an author."

That bodes well for the library's shelf life, said DiNola.

"An interesting thing about buildings: The buildings that last are the ones the community loves," DiNola said. "I think it will be a 100-year building."

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://twitter.com/col_history; tom.vogt@columbian.com.