Sustainability Is a Key Element of Alderman Library Renovations

Sustainability Is a Key Element of Alderman Library Renovations

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The University of Virginia’s massive Alderman Library, built during the Depression era to house the University’s collections when they outgrew the Rotunda, is undergoing an extensive renovation, based on the Unversity’s own green building standards.

The renovations are preserving much of the building and recycling much of what can’t be preserved. The renovations to the library, built in the late 1930s, will upgrade the building’s systems – mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire suppression – as well as improve accessibility, make the building more open and inclusive, and add a more open north entrance.

Many of the library’s features are being restored and reused within the structure, including light fixtures, fireplaces, paneling, doors and iron gates and windows.

“The historic windows will be refinished in place, scraped down, repaired and repainted along with new caulk and weather stripping,” said Brenda Loewen, a senior project manager for the library. “They will be fixed in place. All of these items will provide an improved thermal performance, reduce infiltration and provide LEED points while maintaining the historic appearance.”

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While following the University standards, the renovators are aiming to achieve a silver-level rating from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, a common measure of sustainability in construction and renovation projects.

The historic furniture from the library, such as the tables, chairs, bookcases and period room fixtures, will all be cleaned and refurbished, as will the decorative arts, which include carpets, paintings and plaques.

“One goal of the interior design is to draw a distinction between the historic main library and the new addition,” said Brian E. Hogg, senior historic preservation planner in the Office of the Architect for the University. “Historic Alderman still had a lot of its original and early furniture – big study tables, Windsor chairs, and other tables and chairs – that was well used, but still sound and comfortable. That furniture will be repaired as needed, refinished and repurposed in the original building. Retaining this furniture will help to enhance and reinforce the character of the significant historic rooms that are being restored as part of the project.”

Renovators are aiming to achieve a silver-level rating from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, a common measure of sustainability in construction and renovation projects.

In the new addition, the furniture will feature lighter-colored wood with more contemporary lines, but will still be substantial and comfortable, Hogg said.

“It will complement the new spaces and will help to signal the move from the historic to the new building, but won’t be such a strong contrast with the historic furniture that the difference is jarring,” he said.

“Some of the library furniture was repurposed to other UVA libraries or sent to the UVA ReUse Store,” Loewen said. “The ReUse Store hosted a surplus sale on site to allow the public to purchase a variety of items from the library, including newer office items and miscellaneous older items.

About 75% of the non-hazardous waste from the project is being recycled, with about 50% of the separated concrete and the masonry crushed and used for backfilling operations.

“Drawer fronts from the original card catalogs are being repurposed into a ‘Donor Wall.’”

Some of the items in the library were donated, both inside and outside the University. Two tanks of helium – which the library’s Scholars’ Lab Geographic Information System specialists used to launch weather balloons for aerial scanning – were given to the Astronomy Department, where they can be used to test for leaks in vacuum containers or for an undergrad weather balloon project.

Lumber from the hundreds of bookshelves from the New and Old stacks was first offered to University departments; when there were no takers, it was donated to Aldersgate United Methodist Church through the ReUse Store. The wood will replace existing shelves in the church’s preschool. The church will also use a wooden coat rack from the third-floor Garnett Room.

The historic windows will be refinished in place, scraped down, repaired and repainted, given new caulk and weather stripped, and fixed in place to improve thermal performance.

The shelving is not the only wood being repurposed. Several trees, including tulip poplars, around the library had to be felled as part of the renovation. In the past, they likely would have been chipped and used for landscaping mulch. However, they have now been cut into 12-foot sections, milled and the lumber dried in a solar kiln built by Andrew Spear, an architecture graduate student who graduated in May. The finished lumber will be used for student projects in the School of Architecture, and the drama and fine arts departments.

Much of Alderman’s metal shelving, like the other scrap metals in the building, was also recycled.

“We had more than 120 tons of metal shelving that went straight to metal recycling,” said Kit Meyer, senior project manager with Facilities Management.

About 75% of the non-hazardous waste from the project is being recycled, with about 50% of the separated concrete and the masonry crushed and used for backfilling operations.

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The design team has also developed a way to retain and use rainwater runoff and condensate from the cooling system. The water will be held in underground tanks, preserving useful water and helping control runoff in heavy storms.

“We are going to capture and reuse storm water runoff, saving millions of gallons from the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority supply,” Meyer said.

“We have 75,000 gallons of storage in cisterns below Nameless Field that will capture runoff from the 49,000 square-foot roof for reuse in the Newcomb Road chiller plant,” said Charlene Harper, a civil engineer for HG Design Studeo in Richmond, who is working on the project. “The design will completely divert roof runoff for storms of 1.8 inches or less and partially divert larger storms, depending on the availability of storage within the tank.”

Underground cisterns in Nameless Field will capture condensate and stormwater runoff from Alderman Library so it can be used in the University’s chiller plants.

The tanks will empty in one to three days following storms, providing more than a million gallons of water per year. Because the water is being held, it will reduce potential flooding. On top of that, the tanks will also recapture condensate from the cooling plants, which amounts to about 233,728 gallons per year. The water captured in the tanks will be used to feed the chiller plant, which uses towers to cool water through evaporation.

The chiller plant water constantly needs to be replaced to make up for the evaporated water.  The reused rainwater will reduce the University’s annual water usage.

“We worked closely with the UVA Office of Sustainability to determine the historic monthly water demand for the plant, and we anticipate meeting at least 9% of that demand annually,” Harper said. “The savings would be approximately $10,000 in the first year of implementation and would increase each year as the cost of water increases.”

The Alderman Libray renovations will improve accessibility, make the building more open and inclusive and add a more open north entrance.
Some parts of the library are being demolished, and much of the the detritus from that work is being recycled, such as grinding up concrete and brick to use as fill.
In the original Alderman building, furniture will be repaired as needed, refinished and repurposed to help enhance and reinforce the character of the historic rooms.
Crews excavate on the edge of Nameless Field as part of the Alderman Library renovation project.
The renovations to Alderman Library will upgrade the library’s building systems, including mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire suppression.
The renovations to Alderman Library, built in the late 1930s, will preserve much of the building and recycle much of what can’t be preserved.
Historic furniture and fixtures in the Alderman Library will be cleaned and refurbished to be used again.
The interior of the library is being stripped down as part of the renovation to upgrade all the mechanicals.

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Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications