Crossroads of Design | Library by Design, Fall 2014

In a time when the mission of libraries is rapidly evolving, how can we craft buildings that not only endure but thrive when meeting new challenges? This question underlined the learning at LJ’s Design Institute (DI) held May 16 in Salt Lake City. Presenters and peers asked attendees to redefine how they thought about sustainability, exploring the idea in terms of conserving energy and being environmentally responsible and looking at the sustainability of a building holistically—from how comfortable patrons and employees are to how the space can change to support new ventures, some of which designers and librarians might not have imagined yet.

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In a time when the mission of libraries is rapidly evolving, how can we craft buildings that not only endure but thrive when meeting new challenges? This question underlined the learning at LJ’s Design Institute (DI) held May 16 in Salt Lake City. Presenters and peers asked attendees to redefine how they thought about sustainability, exploring the idea in terms of conserving energy and being environmentally responsible and looking at the sustainability of a building holistically—from how comfortable patrons and employees are to how the space can change to support new ventures, some of which designers and librarians might not have imagined yet.

Sustaining more than standard

Jim Cooper, director of the Salt Lake County Library, joined on a panel by architects, designers, and librarians from around the country, began the conversation by asking just what we mean by sustainability. A new view of the concept, said Traci Lesneski, principal at MSR, must take into account the impact the building has not only on its surrounding environs but on the patrons and employees who use it every day, considering things such as employee health and ease of use for patrons.

Kenner Kingston, senior principal at Architectural Nexus, addressed the question from a more traditional energy and environmental impact perspective. He pointed out that even from that view, “sustainability” may be an outmoded way of thinking about building design, one that encourages designers to get by without causing damage to the surrounding environment when they could be doing more. While Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) requirements, for example, are good, he said, they can’t be the be-all and end-all of sustainable design thinking. “Mere sustainability is not a very lofty goal,” Kingston told the audience. “We need to think bigger.” That means restorative design, which aims actively to help improve the environment.

He encouraged librarians and designers alike to start looking at more ambitious sustainability plans, including living buildings, which cost more to create but help drive the standard, as LEED did from its introduction as a specialization in the 1990s to an industry standard today. That sentiment was echoed by Lesneski, who pointed out that a demand for living buildings from librarians and designers forces the construction industry to meet that demand and thus can turn designers and their clients into agents for lasting change.

Ian Godfrey, head of facilities and collections at the University of Utah’s Marriott Library, acknowledged that for librarians a new building can be a place to craft new relationships with people or groups that wouldn’t otherwise make natural partners, including groups that may have little interest in libraries but have vested interests in sustainable design and green construction.

Kevin Blalock of Blalock & Partners, meanwhile, described himself as LEED-agnostic, noting that not all LEED factors make sense for all libraries. For example, he cited, it is impossible to place solar panels on some historic buildings. LEED should be a standard that new buildings live up to because it’s the right decision in the long term, he said, not for its own sake. “In some locations,” said Blalock, “it won’t make sense to have electric car plugs or carpool parking just to capture a few more points [toward a LEED rating].”

To make those ratings make sense, said Lesneski, builders and designers have to show the people who will use those buildings how they will benefit, which requires communicating with stakeholders and having data to back it up—a task that can be troublesome when LEED energy modeling is often less accurate than would be hoped. Panelists agreed the modeling issues have improved since LEED standards were introduced, and the system remains a generally strong one for encouraging sustainability. Kingston also reminded attendees that all the certifications in the world mean little if staff and patrons aren’t trained in how to use features properly, because changes in energy consumption don’t come just through design but through the behavior of a building’s occupants.

“We can create high-performance buildings,” Kingston said. “The ques-tion is, will you act in a high-performance way within them?” Godfrey agreed, speaking to the difficulties of educating a student population about ways to conserve energy, especially when other buildings on campus may not make it the high priority the library does.

Asked for final tips, Blalock suggested that time invested at the beginning of a building process in engaging architects, designers, and contractors can pay off over the life of a project. Lesneski stated that the focus of designing a sustainable building should be on the impact it will have, not the sexiness of its aesthetic, emphasizing that many of the most important and impactful design decisions will be as good as invisible to patrons and staff, so decision makers must be able to explain what those changes are and how they’re saving money and energy. For librarians looking to save money at existing buildings, Kingston emphasized the importance of staying late into the evening to “find out what’s running an hour after you’ve gone home,” which can reduce energy bills immediately. Godfrey, meanwhile, stressed the need for communication between patrons and staff, not only during the design process but following it. Collaboration and ongoing conversation, Godfrey said, keep momentum alive after a building is completed.

Designing for community

Engagement was a theme throughout the day. Salt Lake City Public Library executive director John Spears took the lead on a panel looking at how libraries can turn smart design into more community engagement. Nestor Bottino of Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture said that designing libraries just as libraries isn’t possible any longer. New libraries must be built taking into account the needs and input of community organizations from the earliest steps.

Mindy Sorg of OPN Architects related her own experience designing teen library spaces and how OPN needed to rethink its design with more input from teen patrons, placing less emphasis on looking hip and more on being comfortable in their surroundings. “We love to shop at Aber­crombie,” Sorg said, “but we hang out at Barnes & Noble.”

Regarding the burgeoning movement toward participatory libraries, Dennis Humphries of Humphries Poli Architects noted that people designing participatory museums and other nonlibrary spaces are already asking libraries for design tips because of their experience creating hands-on opportunities for patrons. “People are coming to libraries for a variety of reasons,” Humphries said, “and we have to make it continually meaningful.” As an example, he indicated the work his firm did at Colorado’s Pine River Library, LJ’s 2014 Best Small Library in America, which embraced new uses of outdoor space for community gardens and indoor space for cooking classes.

A GATHERING PLACE Top row, l.-r.: the downtown Salt Lake City Library hosted the day’s activities; panels and discussion took place in the library’s auditorium, and Executive Director John Spears welcomed attendees. Second row: participants considered the day’s challenge sessions; vendor sponsors sharing product info included Pekka Väisänen (c.) and Kyle Holcomb (r.) from P.V. Supa; and Randy Korte (l.) from DEMCO Interiors. Third row, l.-r.: discussing designing for community engagement were (l.–r.) OPN’s Mindy Sorg; Adriane Juarez from Park City Library, UT; Dennis Humphries of Humphries Poli Architects; and Nestor Bottino from Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture. Taking part in the panel on sustainability were MSR’s Traci Lesneski (l.) and Kevin Blalock from Blalock & Partners as well as (9) Ian Godfrey (l.) from the University of Utah’s Marriott Library and Kenner Kingston (r.) from Architectural Nexus. Fourth row, l.-r.: other sponsor reps on tap were Chris Frantz (c.) and Ryan Hickey (r.) from Brodart; Karen Rose (l.) from Library Strategies; and Tim Lawson (r.) from Tech Logic. Bottom row, l.-r.: the Ask the Experts panel featured advice from (l.–r.) Jack Poling (MSR), Dennis Humphries, Jeff Davis, Nestor Bottino, Bradd Brown (OPN), and Rob Beishline (Blalock & Partners); capping the day, attendees enjoyed cocktails and conversation on the library’s rooftop terrace. Photos by Kevin Henegan

A GATHERING PLACE Top row, l.-r.: the downtown Salt Lake City Library hosted the day’s activities; panels and discussion took place in the library’s auditorium, and Executive Director John Spears welcomed attendees. Second row: participants considered the day’s challenge sessions; vendor sponsors sharing product info included Pekka Väisänen (c.) and Kyle Holcomb (r.) from P.V. Supa; and Randy Korte (l.) from DEMCO Interiors. Third row, l.-r.: discussing designing for community engagement were (l.–r.) OPN’s Mindy Sorg; Adriane Juarez from Park City Library, UT; Dennis Humphries of Humphries Poli Architects; and Nestor Bottino from Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture. Taking part in the panel on sustainability were MSR’s Traci Lesneski (l.) and Kevin Blalock from Blalock & Partners as well as Ian Godfrey (l.) from the University of Utah’s Marriott Library and Kenner Kingston (r.) from Architectural Nexus. Fourth row, l.-r.: other sponsor reps on tap were Chris Frantz (c.) and Ryan Hickey (r.) from Brodart; Karen Rose (l.) from Library Strategies; and Tim Lawson (r.) from Tech Logic. Bottom row, l.-r.: the Ask the Experts panel featured advice from (l.–r.) Jack Poling (MSR), Dennis Humphries, Jeff Davis, Nestor Bottino, Bradd Brown (OPN), and Rob Beishline (Blalock & Partners); capping the day, attendees enjoyed cocktails and conversation on the library’s rooftop terrace. Photos by Kevin Henegan

Humphries also suggested that designers shift focus from demographics to psychographics, asking what will draw people to the library and make it special to them.

Discussing whether Maker spaces are right for every library, Adriane Juarez of Utah’s Park City Library cited examples of “finding a Maker space that works for you” by gearing creative production tools to tasks that are already meaningful to and popular with local patrons. For example, Park City, “a film town,” added a media lab to help residents make movies. Bottino cited the example of dense urban areas without garages or basements as places where libraries can provide room to tinker with tools. Humphries concurred, saying such spaces need to be a place not just to have fun but that adds value to the community.

Sometimes, community engagement can come from strategically putting just a little impediment between patrons and what they seek. Sorg cited the example of placing meeting rooms far from the entrance, so that local businesspeople must encounter the rest of the library on their way.

Open for dialog

In addition to the panels and brainstorming breakouts, this DI featured an innovation: a freewheeling, lively, energetic open forum in which architects offered expert advice to librarians. In answer to how to keep up with rapidly evolving technology, Bradd Brown of OPN summed it up: “You need flexibility of power, data, space.”

Salt Lake County Library’s Cooper asked whether it is better to contract design and construction together or separately. Most of the assembled architects agreed that together is better. For those whose towns don’t allow it, a construction manager who advises throughout the process can help, noted MSR’s Jack ­Poling.

Lois Lenroot-Ernt of Hennepin County Library, MN, asked the architects to explain the process to help libraries be better clients. After a discussion of libraries gaining community buy-in beforehand and architects eschewing professional jargon in favor of what Bottino described as “simple, clear language,” Brown identified new 3-D technology that can help with visualization, and Humphries suggested that library schools add an architectural course.

In a final nuts-and-bolts query, the architects were asked how much libraries should expect to pay for their services. Humphries said there is literally no standard: an architect’s association used to have some, but the federal government said it violated antitrust legislation. Instead, Bottino suggested librarians ask other libraries what they paid to establish a baseline. Then, he added, “that puts responsibility on you to tear your project apart and see how it differs from baseline.” Some such differentiators, according to Brown, include remodels or additions, which often cost more than new construction; phasing (which keeps architects on site longer); and smaller buildings, because they have fewer economies of scale.

Key, however, is understanding the budget early and getting real about expectations. Said Bottino, “Start with what is essential and see what you can do with the budget.” Then prioritize, added Architectural Nexus’s Jeff Davis. Brown noted that design is a process, not an event. “I am a big believer in the need to fail fast and early,” said Brown. “Fail on meeting the budget early so you don’t miss on budget later.”

The Sponsors

Special thanks to our sponsors for their generous support of and participation in LJ’s Design Institute

ARCHITECTS

Architectural Nexus Jeffery Davis, AIA, LEED ®AP BD+C Principal jdavis@archnexus.com; 801-924-5000 www.archnexus.com Blalock & Partners Kevin Blalock, AIA, Principal kevinb@blalockandpartners.com; 801-532-4940 www.blalockandpartners.com Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture Patty Chen, AIA LEED AP, Principal pchen@holzmanmoss.com; 212-465-0808 www.holzmanmoss.com Humphries Poli Architects Dennis Humphries, Partner, AIA, Principal dhumphries@hparch.com; 303-607-0040 www.hparch.com MSR Amy Nash, Associate/Communications Manager amyn@msrltd.com; 612-375-0336 www.msrltd.com OPN Architects Kate Beihl, Marketing Director kbeihl@opnarchitects.com; 319-363-6018 www.opnarchitects.com

VENDORS

Brodart Contract Furniture Ryan Hickey, Marketing Manager ryan.hickey@brodart.com; 800-233-8467, x8363 www.brodartfurniture.com DEMCO Library Interiors Janet Nelson, Director, Business Development janetn@demco.com; 608-241-1201 www.demcointeriors.com Library Strategies Karen Rose, Consultant karen@thefriends.org; 651-288-0410 www.thefriends.org P.V. Supa Pekka Väisänen, Director pekka.vaisanen@pv-supa.com; 972-423-9280 www.pv-supa.com Tech Logic Steve Wilson, VP, Product Development swilson@tech-logic.com; 651-747-0492 www.tech-logic.com

PARTNERS

Salt Lake City Public Library System John Spears, Executive Director jspears@slcpl.org; 801-524-8205 www.slcpl.lib.ut.us Salt Lake County Library Services James D. Cooper, Director jimcooper@slcolibrary.org; 801-943-4636 www.slcolibrary.org
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