HISTORY The original Athol Library building is a Carnegie library completed in 1918 and enlarged in 1965. The library has now been expanded by an addition of 14,174 sf to a total of about 20,068 sf on two floors.
ECONOMY AND SUSTAINABILITY Although one of the most economically depressed communities in Massachusetts, the community supported the comprehensive economic, social and environmental benefits of a Platinum-Level LEED-certified building as the best demonstration of their commitment to limit negative impact on the environment. Also, the decision to remain at the current location and retain/remodel the existing building expressed a dedication to a building footprint that will least impact the site, and contribute to economic revitalization of the historic town center.
The primary economic generator for the town has been the L.S. Starrett Company, founded in 1880. The company used the river that runs through the town to power its mills. Those mills are still functioning today, although expanded to 500,000 sf. So, Athol continues to function as a “traditional New England Mill Town” in the 21st century. The land for the original building was given to the town by the Starrett Company, and, 3 generations later, the land for the addition was also donated by the Starrett Company. Now, the library has been a significant factor in the economic renaissance of the town, with the buildings for the businesses adjacent to the library on Main Street being renovated.
CONNECTION TO RIVER HERITAGE The architecture of the building celebrates the economic/industrial heritage of the community by creating a connection through the building addition’s colonnade from Main Street to the Mill River. While the flanking sides of the addition are heavy masonry, the end of the library facing the river is floor to ceiling glass on both levels, focusing on the river and the mill buildings on the opposite bank. Now, a “Riverwalk” is being constructed that will carry the connection from Main Street, through the library to a recreational pathway and landscape developed along the river, using the library as the starting point.
FINANCING INNOVATION In another interesting initiative, the community decided to pay for the library in 5 years with a short term loan rather than a longer mortgage that would have reduced the annual individual tax bill. As they put it, “we don’t want to burden our children with the expense of the project – if we want it, we should pay for it now.”
“LOOKING UP” INITIATIVE – Kid Art The art was created via an invitation to the local kids to take a digital picture looking up, in and around Athol. The final art would be installed on the ceiling in the Children’s library. The notion was that things are “Looking Up” in Athol. The expanded and renovated library is both an indication of an economic turnaround as well as a generator of a local renaissance. Already the building next door has been renovated and other new stores have opened on Main Street.
We advertised the project as a sort of photography competition – the sort where there are no losers. It was my little brainchild to continue to focus attention on the project during construction. Each kid (of any age, BTW) submitted as may images they wanted to an email account which was associated with a Flickr account. All the photos were then posted on the account for anyone to see. Rather than pick one as a “winner” and have it become the ceiling art, we worked with a local college student who had developed an algorithm for “averaging” photographs. It essentially combines all the photos together into an impressionistic collage – not side-by-side, but completely overlapping. Then with some clever and skilled post processing with Photoshop, by another kid (then 14 year old internet photo sensation nicknamed “Fiddleoak” – google that to see his work and the respect that a kid can get for being talented and hardworking).
It is installed at the end of the Children’s library with floor to ceiling glass focused on the River.
LEED CHALLENGES – LOCAL OPPORTUNITY The library achieved one of the most difficult LEED credits – the FSC wood credit. Ordinarily, this credit requires all wood to be sourced from documented sustainable forests. However, the “new” wood flooring in the Carnegie is actually old. Salvaged from old mill buildings in the Athol area, the large old-growth timbers were resawn by an Athol reclamation company, Mann Lumber into the flooring. It still retains some of the old holes from fasteners that held the timbers together, signifying a connection to the community history as well a commitment to sustainability.
Additional Sustainable Initiatives As a result of community input during the most recent long range planning process and alternative site examination, the library Trustees committed to remain in the current location and to preserve the town's historic Carnegie library. This decision enabled the library to be an anchor in a nascent downtown redevelopment effort and to play a role in bringing to fruition the community-inspired Millers River Vision, rather than relocate to a 'green space' away from the town center.
In November 2008, pledging to follow the LEED Green Building Certification process, the Library Trustees unanimously voted to join the USGBC. Additionally, in anticipation of an eventual building project, Library Trustee Dr. Carol Ambrozy became a LEED certified AP. The project was registered under LEED-NC v.2.2 in June 2009. The Trustees decided to pursue Platinum-level LEED certification for the library project involving major renovation and new construction, to minimize life-cycle costs of the building, to practice environmental stewardship and to demonstrate leadership.
Continuing to research good partnerships, the Trustees engaged with National Grid's Advanced Building program in 2008 and organized efforts to review and discuss sustainable design features with library staff and members of the Athol Energy Committee. This partnership is expected to help the library not only comply with the Stretch Code but also attain Platinum-level LEED certification. In addition, it may provide National Grid with a useful model and test case of Stretch Code application to a public building project in advance of statewide adoption of the Stretch Code. The current effort is taking place in the context of a multi-year strategic collaboration announced in October 2010 by National Grid, the Town of Athol and the North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce to improve building energy performance throughout the community and nine towns of the North Quabbin.
Town of Athol procured a Solar Power Purchase Agreement which provides for the installation of solar PV systems on public properties to generate up to 3,300,000 kWh of electricity on an annual basis to meet the current electricity demands of all buildings and facilities owned and operated by the Town of Athol. Additionally, an array of PV panels will be installed on the library roof to provide approximately 25% of the building’s annual energy needs.
Additional strategies that the building integrated under the LEED certification process include: • Site selection in proximity to public transportation, commercial activity and civic institutions - The building remains in the heart of the downtown district within a bus-stop that accommodates two bus lines and the public school transportation system • Accommodations for fuel efficient vehicles and car pools - Part of the design of the parking lot • 4 electric car charging stations in the parking lot • Improved water quality via reduced runoff and filtering - Current impervious walking/parking areas redesigned to include pervious/filter areas, trees, reading garden • Reduced heat island effect via high solar reflectance index roofing materials • Reduced water consumption via the use of native plantings, no irrigation system, and low flow indoor plumbing fixtures • Reduce carbon footprint by purchasing materials/supplies within 500 miles of building site • Optimized energy performance via highly insulated building envelope, high efficiency mechanical equipment, and whole building energy simulation through partnership with National Grid. • Infrastructure for PV installation on the roof (PV's under separate project) • Additional building systems operating efficiencies via enhanced commissioning • Reduction of construction waste via separation and recycling of 95% of construction waste. • Forest preservation via use of FSC certified lumber • Improved indoor air quality via Indoor Air Quality monitoring during and after constriction • Use of low emitting materials for paints, carpets and composite wood products • Control of indoor pollutants by mechanical ventilation of janitorial materials, storage spaces, copy center, etc. • Expanded control of thermal and lighting systems with additional heating/cooling zones and multi-level lighting control • Enhanced day lighting with automated lighting controls adjusted to respond to available daylight, occupancy sensors in book stack aisles as well as private offices and toilets.
In terms of building systems, the heating and cooling is provided via a highly efficient Variable Refrigerant Flow system with energy recovery on the ventilation. Plumbing fixtures are water efficient low flow units. Lighting is provided with high efficient fixtures, many of which are LED and the upgrade to the high performance fixtures was supported by the electrical utility company, NGrid, in their Advanced Buildings Program. Lighting in the bookstacks and other areas is triggered by occupancy sensors so that light level remains low until the patrons need more illumination. Tables have task lights rather than overhead fixtures to help reduce lighting power density. An array of photovoltaic panels will occupy most of the (high albedo) roof are of the addition.
The comprehensive economic, social and environmental benefits of a Platinum-Level LEED-certified building will be the best demonstration of the library's commitment to limit the impact of the building on the natural enviro In terms of building systems, the heating and cooling is provided via a highly efficient Variable Refrigerant Flow system with energy recovery on the ventilation. Plumbing fixtures are water efficient low flow units. Lighting is provided with high efficient fixtures, many of which are LED and the upgrade to the high performance fixtures was supported by the electrical utility company, NGrid, in their Advanced Buildings Program. Lighting in the bookstacks and other areas is triggered by occupancy sensors so that light level remains low until the patrons need more illumination. Tables have task lights rather than overhead fixtures to help reduce lighting power density. An array of photovoltaic panels will occupy most of the (high albedo) roof are of the addition. nment. Also, the decision to remain at our current location and retain/remodel the existing building expressed an assurance that the Committee and Design team are dedicated to a developmental footprint that will least impact the site.
Construction Cost The construction phase was not without its challenges, but the Change Orders have been less than 1.75% - remarkable for an new building on an open site – and practically impossible for a historic building on a site that has a canal running under the historic building and the addition, while striving for the highest level recognition in sustainable design. Nevertheless, we achieved these goals!