New Kensington Library
New LEED-Certified building
The Brooklyn Public Library’s new Kensington Branch building, which won an award for Excellence in Design from The Art Commission of the City of New York, was thought up with environmentalism and aesthetics in mind. The branch was built through low-impact construction, which used non-toxic, renewable, recyclable, and local materials. One such material is the concrete, which is made with flyash, a by-product of coal-burning electricity plants. Using flyash improves the quality of concrete and recycles a potential wasteful pollutant. Another used material that utilizes waste is wheat board, which is made out of compressed agricultural waste fibers. Some wood flooring was made of bamboo, a fast-growing sustainable resource, while other wood was sourced from carefully managed or nearby forests. Recycled tires were used to make rubber flooring.
By using the sun as a light and heat source, and by using groundwater heat pumps to maintain a constant temperature, the Kensington Library, at 15,000 gross square feet, uses 30% less energy than similarly sized structures. The building management system automatically switches off electric lighting when it senses that there is sufficient sunlight to illuminate the library. Heat pumps use the Earth's relatively stable temperature to moderate the temperature of the library. They circulate groundwater, which is used to absorb the building's excess heat. Functioning as an air cooling system, these pumps lower the library’s dependence on fossil fuel and expensive cooling and heating equipment.
What is LEED?
The LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, recognizes and assists those seeking to construct environmentaly friendly buildings. Environmentally friendly construction has many benefits, producing buildings that are healthier and safer for their occupants, receive tax rebates, operate more efficiently, produce less pollution, and send less waste to landfills. As a Silver-LEED certified building, the Kensington branch meets requirements of sustainability, low impact maintenance, water and energy efficiency,sustainable material usage, indoor environmental quality, and positive impact on the surrounding community.
First Impressions: A look at the new building.
Lights in the new building are regulated by the amount of natural light filtering in through the new buildings wide windows. When sensors are receiving a sufficient quantity of light, the artificial lighting turns off. The broad windows also allow the sun's heat to filter in. This warming system is so effective that on a recent sunny day, library staff were able to regulate the temperature by closing a set of blinds. More natural lighting enters through the wide windows of the second floor’s ceiling. This light continues to fall through the affectionately-termed “doughnut hole” in the center of the second floor, providing illumination for scores of readers and studiers at the tables below. The second floor, designed for kids, played host to a plethora of playing children one fine spring break day.
Bedecked with computers, books, and a DVD collection, the existence of a floor designed primarily for children successfully provides a space for kids, separate from the quiet first floor, which boasts more computers, lounge chairs, and tables, in addition to both a YA and adult section. The library’s spacious and brightly lit areas are open, airy, and cheerful. The basement level, despite its discontinuity from the outside world, is pervaded by the same light motif that unites the rest of the library. Color-blocked walls, swift lines, and bright lighting render the basement’s community room as welcoming as its upstairs brethren.
With the completion of its new building, Kensington Library has witnessed a 32% increase in visitors, and a similarly dramatic increase in the circulation of its books. The old Kensington building had, at most, about 41,000 books in circulation. After moving into its new home, Kensington branch easily surpassed its old record, and has had up to 48,000 books in circulation. This increase in usage has brought the branch up from 13th highest in circulation to 5th highest circulation rate. The building’s new location on a busy street has probably contributed to Kensington’s increasing usage.
Staff at the new building report visitors telling them that they decided to stop in at the library after noticing the shiny new building whilst riding the bus. The multi-story building’s elevator has made Kensington accessible to the elderly and disabled, who were not able to attend programs or events in the old building. The new building is much brighter, and is in much better shape than the old, dark, leaky, and crumbling-walled old building.