There’s change happening in New York: the subways carry signs promoting environmental awareness, New Yorkers recycle their trash, and energy-saving light bulbs are more and more in use. Against this background it’s no surprise that the New York Public Library now boasts three so-called green buildings: the Bronx Library Center, the Kingsbridge Library and the Battery Park City Library.
What exactly is it that differentiates a green building from other buildings? Energy consumption derives from renewable sources, of course, energy-efficient light bulbs are in use, and in seldom-used rooms (bathrooms, some offices) motion detectors have been installed. A reduction in water consumption and the presence of double and triple grazed windows are a matter of course. In addition, all three libraries have these measures in common:
- almost 90% of construction rubble and residual rubbish is recycled
- the libraries gain a great deal of natural light from windows, dormer windows and skylights. By means of sensors, electric lights are dimmed in proportion to the amount of available natural light (see the video of the Bronx Center Library).
- environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies and recycled paper are used exclusively
- all of the wood used in the libraries comes from a non-commercial company that supports responsible planning of forests.
At the Battery Park City Library, a portion of the library’s liquid waste is passed through the library’s filtering system, where it is treated for use in watering the library’s grounds. Similarly, the library pursues the concept of green buildings in the design of its furniture: the wood of the shelving end walls is of recycled window frames (photo), and the carpet is of old truck tires – the carpet has an amazingly fluffy feel to it, and yet is quite robust. And the chairs are truly eye-catching, partly constructed as they are of recycled industrial plastic, with seats woven of recycled seatbelts (photo).
In the photos and on the video, it is hard to see the degree of environmental consciousness that has gone into the furnishings and the building itself. To this end, the Battery Park City Library has a green Touchscreen computer (photo). Visitors to the library can use the touchscreen to learn about the library’s green concept and interior. In addition, this information is designed to inspire library users to make more responsible decisions in their own lives. One computer, for example, serves as an interactive tool with which one can calculate how much money can be saved by exchanging traditional light bulbs with energy-saving ones.
This high degree of environmental planning and action is officially recognized, of course: all three libraries are LEED certified (LEED = Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Battery Park City Library is now trying to achieve Platinum status, the highest level of quality. Those who wish to read more information on the classification system will find it here. New York City’s Green Buildings initiative is further explained here.
I’m surprised that in the midst of the financial crisis such innovative construction is possible. But as Jane Fisher, Manager of the Branch Libraries in the Bronx, explained to me, “Renovation is stalled above all in the older library buildings. That’s because to a politician, new windows aren’t sexy. But a green building is. Conservation is the new trend in New York – so investing in green buildings is a vote-getter.
Thursday, 29. September 2011
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