Sustainability in Library renovation: Pioneering a carbon-neutral future

U.S. Green Building Council: LEED SILVER, USGBCIn its project to renovate the main library, UVA is striving to achieve a silver level rating from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program. The project earns points according to how well it meets LEED’s sustainability goals in several categories, including “Materials and Resources” and “Indoor Environmental Quality.” The renovation team is following the University’s own green building standards which exceed some LEED requirements as old materials are replaced with new ones that make the library a safer place for users, staff, and personnel who maintain the building’s infrastructure.

The team is working with a “red list” developed by Engineering consulting firm Thornton Tomasetti to screen out five key hazardous chemicals found commonly in roofing, windows, insulation, paint, flooring, furniture, ceilings, and walls. One material which has passed the rigorous vetting process is the library’s new marmoleum flooring, made of natural materials: linseed oil, pine rosin, wood flour, limestone, pigments, and jute. About 75% of the library’s unused nonhazardous material is being recycled, including 120 tons of metal shelving and other scrap such as rebar.

While many of the library’s furnishings are being sent out for restoration, the project team decided the windows in the Library’s “historic envelope” should be restored in place. According to Facilities Management Sustainability Program Manager Jesse Warren, one of the reasons for not sending the windows off-site is that the library is reducing its carbon footprint not only by saving energy in heating, cooling, and lighting, but by the amount of energy saved in construction itself. By eliminating the carbon embodied in the energy it would take to remove the windows, pack them, transport them, pack them again and transport them back to be reinstalled, the library is setting an example for other University building projects to follow, pioneering the way toward a carbon-neutral future.

But sustainability takes more than meeting standards. According to Facilities Management Senior Project Manager Kit Meyer, a lot of salvage and recycling is done not to pile up credits and points, but from a sense of commitment. Trees that needed to come down are being sawed into lumber instead of being chipped into filler, and wooden bookshelves have found a new home through UVA’s ReUSE Store, along with numerous miscellaneous items such as office furniture, rugs, cabinets, and more.

View from above of a box containing various types of window hardware.

Window hardware claimed by Central Grounds carpenters, thereby keeping it out of an area landfill.

Meyer said the team was able to let go of some slate roof tiles that were not needed. After 100 were distributed to UVA Advancement, the rest went to a subcontractor who agreed to donate the tiles they do not use to Habitat for Humanity.

According to Library Project Manager Brenda Loewen, Central Grounds carpenters likewise found a use for window screens and solid brass window turn locks, keepers, and handles that that would otherwise have gone into a landfill. These types of informal agreements are not documented but are still an important part of responsible resource management.

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