Sustainability Is Incorporated Into Alderman Library

June 27, 2023 By Matt Kelly, Matt Kelly,

The renovated Alderman Library at the University of Virginia will be a showplace designed for sustainability.

The library renovations include a new north entrance facing University Avenue, featuring a terrace and a set of doors leading into a spacious second-floor lobby, replacing a 1960s-era addition. The design will bring more natural light into the building and add exterior and interior connections between Alderman and Clemons libraries.

The project, designed by HBRA Architects, will also include upgrades of safety features and mechanical elements. The renovation began in 2020 and is expected to be completed late this year.

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“The project complies with the University’s Green Building Standards, which support our larger sustainability goals, such as being carbon-neutral by 2030,” said Kit Meyer, the project director for Facilities Management. “We worked with the Office of Sustainability to develop energy reduction goals for the project.”

Many of the library’s previous systems were inadequate by contemporary standards.

“Our goal was to develop a heating and cooling strategy that would use 25% less energy than prior to the renovation,” Meyer said. “We also were given a ‘stretch goal’ to use 50% less, a goal we have met.”

Energy savings translates into financial savings. The library is projected to reduce its energy cost by half, from $800,000 a year to $400,000.

“Lighting accounts for 33% of our energy use and the University has converted all lighting to LED, including the original chandeliers – which provides amazing returns,” Meyer said. “We removed the original 1930s fixtures and sent them to be refurbished by Crenshaw Lighting, a lighting manufacturer and restorer in Floyd that UVA has used before. They are able to not only repair and clean up the old lights, but they can install hidden LED drivers so that we can still use the historic fixture, but now with LED bulbs.”

Another key to the savings is the natural light drawn into the building. In the 1930s, when the library was built, the windows were single-pane and had no ultraviolet light protection. Over time, a lot of windows had light-blocking measures taken in order to protect the books, Meyer said.

By contrast, the new windows are double-paned, insulated and made with glass that protects from UV rays.

Inside view of the Alderman library
The new design takes the light wells from the 1930s-era construction and caps them with skylights, which open the wide shafts to create outdoor-like indoor spaces for study and presentations. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

To bring in light, the new building will have large, arched windows on the north face and a clerestory – a series of smaller windows – on the roof that will bring daylight into the building while minimizing glare and unwanted direct solar heating.

“The first library for the University was the Rotunda, with its huge, double-height drum and vaulted ceiling topped with an oculus shining in from the top,” Meyer said. “In the main library, there is a clerestory on the roof, which pops the ceiling up in the middle of the fifth floor. It is sided with huge windows that let in lots of light; then there is a hole in the floor between the fifth and the fourth floor, so that natural light comes down all the way into the center of the stacks.”

Meyers cited the design of the new north addition, which holds most of the books, known as “the stacks.”

“The exterior of this new addition shares a look with the original building, which means big, big windows,” she said. “Most of the study areas, instructional spaces and offices will have lots of natural light. And, on the east side, there are some pretty spectacular views of a World Heritage Site.”

The new design takes the light wells from the 1930s constructions and caps them with skylights and opens the wide shafts to create outdoor-like spaces indoors for study and presentations. The new courtyards will offer brightly lit spaces and bring a surrounding natural environment into a space that was previously unoccupied.

Dark interior of the Alderman library
To bring in light, the new building will have a clerestory on the roof that will bring daylight into the building while minimizing glare and unwanted direct solar heating. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

The library will also have sensors that detect daylight and dim the lights to save energy, automated window shades to increase or lessen natural light, and smart outlets that turn off at scheduled times to reduce “phantom” energy consumption.

The sustainability efforts extend beyond the engineering.

“It is important to educate occupants about best practices,” Meyer said. “The library staff plans to use signs with QR codes to teach people about what is going on behind the walls and in the pipes, about sustainability and about how occupants can help optimize the building’s performance. Education is such an important part of successful sustainability program that LEED will even give us a point for these signs as occupant engagement is often the forgotten effort at the end of the project.”

The library will receive heating and cooling water from UVA’s centralized district energy system and contain low-flow fixtures to reduce hot water consumption by more than 40%.

Efficiency is designed into the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, which balance comfort with preserving books and archival materials. The system includes sensors that direct clean, fresh air to where it senses occupants are gathering. Air conditioning will be separate from ventilation, with more effective outside air delivery and recovery ventilators to capture and reuse heat and energy.

The renovation will also use low-impact materials, including low-emission and sustainable materials such as a renewable, plant-based floor covering and natural flooring.

New Proof We Can Use Nature To Heal Nature, Learn More
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The sustainability extends outside the building with innovative stormwater management practices that capture and reuse water.

Stormwater from the library roof, groundwater from the under-slab drainage system and condensation from the HVAC systems will be captured, filtered and diverted to two 75,000 gallon tanks under Nameless Field.

The collected greywater, unfit for consumption, will be pumped to the nearby Newcomb Road chiller plant, where it will offset about 9% of the plant’s annual water use and collect about 2 million gallons of water each year to reduce stormwater runoff and downstream flooding.

“The chiller plant is much more efficient than every building having its own stand-alone system,” Meyer said. “It also uses a lot of water, which it gets from the Charlottesville municipal water supply, so, our millions of gallons of gray water will be used instead of drinking water. This makes us a better neighbor, saves the University some cost, and is better for the environment.”

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications