Library: “Top Five” Energy Efficiency Strategies by Building Type

“Library” spaces have a similar energy use profile as offices, but with some critical differences. Spaces in this group include large open areas of widely varying character, from traditional book storage stacks, to new collaborative learning environments, to spaces for computing and audiovisual interaction. The majority of library spaces are designed around human comfort, supporting individual study and collaborative learning. Library spaces may also include areas for document preservation and/or critical climate-controlled storage.  Energy use is generally driven by the needs of human comfort, mitigating the effects of climate, except where overridden by the specific needs of document and/or object preservation.

The most effective EEMs for Libraries are those that decouple heating and cooling from ventilation, especially when linked with demand control or natural ventilation. EEMs that target the building envelope, such as increased air-tightness, increased building insulation, reduced glazing, triple glazing, or reduced thermal bridging are extremely important to overall energy use, since a tight building envelope can dramatically reduce mechanical systems demand. EEMs that target lighting efficiency are highly effective, given that large areas are designed for the high lighting levels needed for critical reading activity.

Our “TOP FIVE” EEMs for Libraries include:

  1. Optimize Building Massing and Orientation
    • Shield building with surrounding terrain.
    • Optimize solar orientation.
    • Narrow floorplan for increased natural light.
    • Optimize massing (minimize skin).
    • Allow adequate space for mechanical systems.
  2. Optimize Building Envelope
    • Maximize insulation
    • Minimize glazing, High performance glazing
    • Avoid thermal bridging and maximize air tightness
  3. Separate Heating / Cooling Delivery from Fresh Air Delivery
    • Strategies include: Radiant slabs, Radiant panels, Finned tube radiation, Chilled beams, Fan coil units
  4. Displacement Ventilation with Demand Control
    • Strategies include under floor air distribution (raised floors), low return / high supply ventilation (such as in auditoria and atria), and/or individual air supply diffusers integrated into furnishings.
    • CO2 controlled fresh air.
    • Occupancy sensor controlled “unoccupied mode” setbacks for ventilation, temperature, and/or humidity control.
  5. Optimize Mechanical Equipment
    • Use high efficiency central plant resources if available
    • High Efficiency boilers, chillers, cooling towers, etc.
    • Recirculated air system.
    • Enthalpy wheel makeup air handling unit.
    • Airside economizer mode.
  6. High Efficiency Lighting
    • Optimized lighting requirements
    • High efficiency fluorescent lighting
    • Daylight Dimming
    • Vacancy Sensing (automatic off, manual on switching)
    • Low Ambient / Targeted Task lighting



  1. 100% continuous insulation at exterior walls (Structural Insulated Panel Systems – SIPS)
  2. Natural ventilation in non-critical areas
  3. Triple Glazing
  4. Automated sunshades
  5. External sunshades
  6. Geothermal Heat Pump
  7. LED Lighting


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