Magazine article Online

Libraries Taking the 'LEED': Green Libraries Leading in Energy and Environmental Design

Magazine article Online

Libraries Taking the 'LEED': Green Libraries Leading in Energy and Environmental Design

Article excerpt

The 40th anniversary of Earth Day, which falls on April 22, 2010, prompts me to look at Earth Day's impact on libraries and the information profession. What has been the evolution of the Green Libraries website as part of the concepts of green and sustainable building design? What online resources will bring you up-to-speed on a rapidly emerging concept?

To appreciate the evolution of Green Libraries, start at 1970, a landmark year in environmental history. The year began with the National Environmental Policy Act (Pub. L. 91-190, 42 U.S.C. 4321-4347, Jan. 1, 1970). The first Earth Day (http://library.buf issued a nationwide call to increase our understanding and awareness for improving the quality of the environment. The year ended with creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA; One of the first actions of the agency established the EPA National Library Network, which held the first and, to date, the largest (1,200 participants) national environmental information conference in September 1970.


During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, library architecture underwent innovations in design stemming from the construction of more than 2,500 Carnegie Libraries worldwide (nearly 1,700 in the U.S.). Post-World War II demographics in the U.S. and dramatic changes to urban and suburban planning schemes provide the historical context from which new generations of library architecture and design trends evolved. A 3-decade period from the 1950s through the 1970s provided not only new designs of libraries but also new public images for the library as a space that provides access to expanding and diversifying collections, services, and facilities.

The longtime editor-in-chief of American Libraries, Leonard Kniffel, commented nearly 20 years ago on the arrival of post-modernism in library architecture emerging in the 1980s. While not mentioning anything about "green library design" or the "environmental friendliness" of emerging library architecture, he pointed to a critical aspect of the evolving nature of library architecture, that regardless of time or period, "Library environments can be efficient yet warm and hospitable." Today, we see the evolving trend for our libraries to be not only "warm and hospitable" but also environmentally responsible.

The concepts of "environmentally responsible libraries" are architectural facets of green-library design, which is the building of new libraries and the renovation of existing structures to conform to standards or guidelines to improve the overall energy efficiencies and "environmental friendliness" of the building. The core of the architectural aspects of Green Libraries is based primarily on the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a nonprofit organization ( Its newsletter, GreenSource, is subscription-based and updates readers on the rapidly changing and multifaceted technology and policy topics, issues, and ideas related to green-building design, including project case studies, trends in green construction, and developments in green design legislation.


LEED is a points system for rating new and existing public and private commercial, institutional, and high-rise residential buildings. The system takes into account a broad array of energy use and environmental performance principles in categories; various credits within each category are assigned for implementation and certification. LEED certification requirements were revised in May 2009 as LEED 3.0.

Listed here are the LEED certification categories, credits (criteria), and points awarded; LEED Online version 3 is available only for those projects registered under LEED 2009 (LEED 2.0 criteria are in parentheses). …

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