The United Nations' Sustainability Initiative, The Future We Want/Rio+20 selected the Valatie library project to feature on its Solutions Sustainability page and as part of their recent Summit in Rio de Janeiro during June, 2012.
Valatie's 80 year old library was no longer meeting the needs of its constituency. Considering the exponentially rising costs of energy, a plan to relocate to a much larger space would prohibitively deplete the operating budget. The library's goal is to reduce both the need and the expense of energy for the library.
Architecture provided a unique solution: building designer, David Bienn --who has over two decades of evergreen design initiatives, working with sustainable communities in Europe and the USA--specified energy-efficient, emerging-technology materials and construction techniques, viewing the building as a microcosm of the community. The planned green building project will align resource-use with 'ever-green' practices, including the installation of skylights, photovoltaic solar panel technology, and ductless air conditioning, with the goal of attaining Net-Zero energy usage, "allowing the library to be more self-sufficient in unpredictable economic times, as an ever-present member of the Valatie and world community", said Bienn.
The innovative building materials and techniques include energy-efficient thermal Steel Structural Insulated Galvalume Panels (SSIPs), combined with an expanded polystyrene core. The 'shell' for the new addition will be composed of SSIPs for the external, load-bearing walls and form an integral part of the roof system. This building envelope will protect against fire, hurricanes, ice-storms, and other disasters, saving on insurance and drastically reducing resource depletion of the library's operating budget. The new specified materials and construction techniques are resistant to fire, pestilence and storms and have enjoyed wide use in the rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Valatie is one of the very first to employ these new materials outside of the Gulf Coast.
With the ability to generate power from the sun during an emergency, such as an ice storm or other incident, the library's solar power has an additional opportunity for 'net metering': the library produces power when the sun shines--sending it into the grid--only purchasing power back from the grid when needed, all serving to lower costs and leave the library's operating budget intact.
With costs eligible for matching New York State, and additional installation costs funded through rebates by the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the building and installation cost of these improvements should pay for themselves within a few years. Utility savings will yield funds for the purchase of books and materials for the library's collections, as well as for operating budget and programs.
The hybrid building is iconic for an online innovative hub, described by Bienn as "an active access portal to the world" serving the entire community, and will also foster communication and cooperation between many library and community patrons and groups. The new much larger building will have separate multi-use areas: adult, children, teen and media, that meet different needs within the community. The success of this project will include an energized landscape of learning and access to information for all age groups as well as provide a centralized location and facility that meets multiple community needs, i.e. community hub for the chartered district of the Valatie Free Library. As the library barn building is prominently visible from a major roadway, these 'green' initiatives will publicly demonstrate the VFL's environmental stewardship.
Please see the United Nations' Sustainability Initiative, which features the Valatie Free Library project. The new library will be available and accessible for everybody, allowing and inviting people to begin or continue their journey with literacy and literature, receiving and exchanging ideas and knowledge in this new information age.
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