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High Density Library receives LEED Gold certification

Sustainable features built into state-of-the-art storage library
August 26, 2016
Computerized storage and retrieval systems allow materials in the three storey high shelving units to be sorted by size, rather than traditional call numbers, making optimal use of the building's space. Photo by Anna Nowaczyk

Computerized storage and retrieval systems in the University of Calgary's High Density Library allow materials in the three-storey shelving units to be sorted by size, rather than by traditional call numbers, making optimal use of the building's space. Photo by Anna Nowaczyk, University of Calgary 

HDL houses approximately 70 per cent of UCalgary's current book and journal collection, in addition to a significant percentage of archival holdings. Some architectural drawings, photographs, and portions of The Nickle Galleries Museum collection are also stored here to ensure they are preserved in ideal conditions. Photo Courtesy LRC Photo Services

HDL houses approximately 70 per cent of UCalgary's current book and journal collection, in addition to a significant percentage of archival holdings. Some architectural drawings, photographs, and portions of the Nickle Galleries collection are also stored here to ensure they are preserved in ideal conditions. Photo by Dave Brown, University of Calgary 

Recycled materials make up more than 15 per cent of the materials used to build the High Density Library, and 20 per cent of building materials were regionally extracted and manufactured. Photo by Anna Nowaczyk, University of Calgary

Recycled materials make up more than 15 per cent of the materials used to build the High Density Library, and 20 per cent of building materials were regionally extracted and manufactured. Photo by Anna Nowaczyk, University of Calgary 

The High Density Library (HDL), which opened its doors on the Spy Hill Campus in 2010, has received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification, adding to the university's already impressive collection of sustainable buildings.

The university has one of the largest concentrations — 1.7 million square feet — of green buildings on any Canadian post-secondary campus. HDL, the seventh building on campus to receive LEED certification, houses about 2.2 million items from libraries around campus as well as materials from University Archives and Special Collections and artwork from the Nickle Galleries.

LEED certification is an international rating of excellence, ranking the library among Canadian and world leaders in the sustainability of its design, construction, and operation.

Stormwater pond creates wildlife habitat on campus

A number of sustainable features were built right in. One of its most unique features includes capturing rainwater and snowmelt from the roof and landscaped areas in a stormwater pond for reuse in washing down animal wards at the nearby Clinical Skills Building, part of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

"After the water is used to wash animal wards, it's sent back through a wetland system designed to naturally clean the water and return it to the stormwater pond," says Adam Stoker, sustainability consultant in the university's Office of Sustainability. "This process eliminates the need for potable water to wash down animal wards and keeps stormwater on the property, thereby protecting local waterways from erosion and contamination. The stormwater pond also helps create a wildlife habitat on campus."

Other features include: high-efficiency lighting and mechanical systems that use 30-per-cent less energy, a light-coloured roof membrane that reflects the sun to reduce heat absorption and in turn energy use for building cooling, high-efficiency fixtures to help reduce water use by 35 per cent, drought-tolerant and adaptive vegetation to eliminate the need for irrigation, and a direct line of sight to windows for most staff to contribute to a healthy workplace.

Sustainability-minded construction approach

HDL's construction was also sustainability minded. Recycled materials make up more than 15 per cent of the materials used to build HDL, and 20 per cent of building materials were regionally extracted and manufactured. Nearly 85 per cent of construction, demolition and land-clearing waste was diverted from the landfill for reuse or recycling.

"We're extremely proud of the innovative design and functionality of the HDL and tremendously pleased that the building has received recognition for its sustainable design," says Tom Hickerson, vice-provost (libraries and cultural resources). Hickerson was instrumental in planning for the HDL, which was modelled after facilities at Harvard and other leading research institutions. "HDL plays a key role in housing resources for the campus community and preserving major collections and archival materials."

To see how other buildings are leading in sustainable design, visit the sustainability website and learn about UCalgary's High Performance Green Building Program which was recognized as an Emerald Award finalist earlier this year.