Alaska library recognized for sustainable design

Alaska library recognized for sustainable design

Photo courtesy of Juneau Empire

The Mendenhall Valley Public Library has received gold certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design from the U.S. Green Building Council. It’s the first city and borough of Juneau, Alaska, building to receive such a distinction, reports the Juneau Empire.

Opened in 2015, the building was designed to save on energy use and operations costs. The USGBC awarded the library the gold certification last month.

“The work you do to receive the award that goes into making your building more sustainable, that is important because it is valuable from a variety of perspectives,” Public Libraries Director Robert Barr said. “It is valuable from an environmental care perspective and from a budget perspective.”

LEED certifications are given on a certified, silver, gold and platinum scale. Only two buildings in Alaska have received platinum certification: the Eielson Visitor Center in Denali National Park, and the Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks.

Library planners had originally set a goal of receiving Silver certification, but exceeded requirements, CBJ Architect Nathan Coffee wrote in an email to the Empire.

Meeting the gold standard requires checking off an extensive list of requirements. The library was built with low volatile organic compound (VOC) materials. Strategically-placed “clerestory” windows near the building’s roof allow it to take advantage of natural light while minimizing heat loss.

A ground source heating system heats the building through a geothermal exchange with earth underneath the library. This allows the library to avoid burning fossil fuels in a traditional oil boiler, saving money on operating costs.

Bike racks, an electric vehicle charging station, locally-sourced building materials, carpool parking spaces and a close proximity to public transportation all helped it earn points toward gold LEED certification.

In all, CBJ Architect Nathan Coffee said, USGBC LEED rating system determined the building to be 48 percent more efficient than their baseline building.

Seventy-five military buildings in Alaska, most of them housing on the Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks, are listed on the USGBC’s website as having gold certification. Only a few non-military buildings in the state are gold-certified, one of them being the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station in Auke Bay, the only other gold-certified building in Juneau.


Topics: Architectural Firms, Associations / Organizations, Building Owners and Managers, Certifications, Construction Firms, Consulting - Green & Sustainable Strategies and Solutions, Daylighting / Skylights / Natural Lighting, Energy Saving Products, Engineering Firms, Geothermal Heating and Cooling, Great Commercial Buildings, Healthy & Comfortable Buildings, HVAC - Heating, Cooling, and Ventilation, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), Interiors, Paint - Low & No VOC, Sustainable Communities, Technology, Urban Planning and Design, USGBC, Ventilation

Companies: U.S. Green Building Council


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