WRNS Studio recently unveiled the first library in the U.S. and the first school building in California to achieve Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) Certification from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). Through ILFI's Living Building Program, the Stevens Library at Sacred Heart Schools demonstrated that it generates more energy than it consumes annually and showed that renewable energy systems can be incorporated into a building in attractive and inspiring ways.
"Sacred Heart Schools challenged us to create a space that would reflect their values of social awareness, sustainability and community," commented WRNS Studio Partner, Director of Sustainability and Project Manager Pauline Souza. "In support of that mission, we designed the library with a dual purpose - to make resource conservation part of the everyday experience while inspiring and educating the community about the importance of environmental stewardship and beauty."
The facility's flexible design highlights the links between energy and water, and serves both as a model of sustainability and as an educational resource.
Model of Sustainability
The library's design focuses on energy-saving strategies including, a photovoltaic system that provides all the library's needed energy, solar tubes to maximize daylighting within interior spaces, daylight monitoring systems and lighting occupancy sensors to minimize electricity usage, a high-efficiency mechanical system, interior air distribution utilizing displacement ventilation, low-flow water fixtures to minimize water use and domestic hot water heating energy, high-performance envelope utilizing continuous rigid exterior insulation, building shading systems, and a rainwater collecting system for campus irrigation.
Design Serves as an Educational Resource
In an effort to bring the school's sustainable story to the forefront, the energy-systems are placed on display as learning tools. The harvested rainwater is filtered and stored in a 3,000-gallon tank that is accessible from the library and used as the primary water source for the nearby eco-orchard, which students harvest.
The rainwater management and greywater waste treatment systems are made visible by a folding glass door and can be easily viewed, providing access for use in educational efforts. Environmental graphics are integrated into the glass door, illustrating the water story and potable water availability. Additional dynamic signage highlighting photovoltaic capture, energy usage and daily trends, are on display within the library for young scientists, parents, and the public to observe.
"We wanted to pay homage to the school's academic hub and turned the library into a hands-on learning facility," explained Adam Woltag, lead designer on the project. "By exposing the building's sustainable strategies, we are able to teach students about conservation and help them build good habits at a young age."
The facility consists of seven workspaces, two meeting rooms, two technology labs, a conference room, office, workroom, and open library space, and boasts an adaptable floor plan with modular furniture that can be easily reconfigured into different learning areas.
To further set the standard in sustainable design, the building was part of a larger review, the PG&E Zero Net Energy Pilot Project, which measured actual performance over a calendar year ending in 2014, finding that the library consumed less energy than it generated.