Harvard College Library News: News from around the libraries

Fine Arts Library Receives LEED Gold Certification

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From left: Paul Bellenoit, Andrea Trimble, Petrina Garbarini and Mary Clare Altenhofen hold the plaque recognizing Fine Arts Library for achieving LEED Gold certification.

January 26, 2010 – When the Fine Arts Library’s printed collections, photographs and graphic images were temporarily relocated to the Littauer building in July 2009, it was to allow for the renovation and expansion project of the Harvard Art Museum at 32 Quincy Street. The product of the move, however, isn’t just an attractive space for study – the Littauer building’s recently-renovated library just might also be the greenest library on Harvard’s campus.

The library was recently certified by the U.S. Green Building Council as meeting LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold standards for environmental and sustainable design and construction. The project to renovate the space, which formerly housed the Littauer Library, was so successful, it missed being certified as LEED Platinum – the highest level possible – by a mere two points.

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“This was an important project, not just in itself, but because it will become a model for future projects,” said HCL Director of Operations and Security Paul Bellenoit. “We don’t have a lot of new buildings, so achieving gold certification on the renovation of an existing space is significant, because it proves it can be done.”

To receive gold certification, the project met more than three dozen LEED guidelines, including the use of 100-percent recycled gypsum wallboard, using locally-produced construction materials and wood harvested from sustainable forests, and creating an energy-efficient lighting plan for the library.

Even following the renovations, sustainability remained a key consideration as the new library space was outfitted, Director of Capital Projects for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Petrina Garbarini said. Rather than purchase new shelving, existing stack and systems shelving was reused, as was much of the furniture in the library and offices.

A good measure of the library’s sustainable pedigree should go to HCL. The Library supported the sustainability efforts from the outset, Garbarini said.

“It makes a huge difference when the owner or client is excited about the process and can help emphasize the importance of sustainability with the design team,” said Andrea Trimble, manager of Green Building Services for the Harvard Office of Sustainability.

Though LEED standards had been incorporated into earlier university buildings, they formally became part of Harvard’s sustainability commitments in December 2007, with the adoption of campus-wide green building guidelines. The guidelines required projects above a certain cost be certified as LEED silver and encouraged LEED certification for smaller projects, like the library project. The guidelines have recently been replaced by more comprehensive green building standards.  “The renovation of the Littauer space is one of about 24 Harvard projects to receive LEED certification, more than all other Ivy League schools combined,” said Trimble. More than 40 other Harvard projects have also been registered with the U.S Green Building Council and are awaiting certification. 

As the first Harvard College Library space to attain LEED certification, the Fine Arts Library at Littauer will almost certainly become a model for future sustainability efforts throughout Harvard’s libraries, Trimble added.

“This project demonstrated that, in a historic building, particularly one where you don’t have control over the entire building, you can integrate these sorts of sustainable building practices into the design and construction,” she said. “We’ve found that meeting LEED standards doesn’t add significant cost to the project, provided you start early. I think the biggest lesson is to set environmental and sustainability goals early on in the process.”