Hoag Library has many environment-friendly features

Posted 22 November 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Solar panels were recently added to Hoag Library in Albion.


I wanted to talk a little about some of the “green” features of the Hoag Library. I have spoken on this topic at a few club meetings here and there, but the number of people who have seen me speak on the topic is quite small.

I was very glad to see that the Library Board finally moved to put the solar panels on the roof for which I wrote a New York State Building Grant in 2013. The decision to put panels on the entire south facing roof, made by the Board after finding out that the price of putting solar panels on the roof had dropped, was a good one. It means that a greater portion of the electric bill incurred by the library each month, will be covered by solar power generated on-site.

To know what percentage of the electric bill will be covered cannot be known just yet. There are just too many variables. However, using estimates from Arista’s website, we can estimate that the panels will cover up to 60 to 70 percent of the yearly electric bill. What we do know is that the system will eventually pay for itself, and once it has done so, will continue to save money for the library for many years to come.

When asked how long the panels will continue to operate at its initial high level, the installers said that it would work at its initial level for about 30 years. After that, the system may decrease in efficiency a little, losing 5 percent of its efficiency. For upkeep, the panels should be inspected once a year. [Arista Power did the installation of solar panels on the library roof.]

But the library has many more passive features that maximize its energy and water usage, and place less stress on the environment. The library is oriented to the south for more than one reason. In the winter, when the sun is at a lower angle, the sun shines in the many south-facing windows, providing light and warmth.

The windows are high efficiency, and there are many south-facing windows, and few north-facing windows. The clerestory windows also provide a passive way to add light and 1/3 of them may be opened. By opening windows above and on the street level, the “chimney effect” of having high and low windows open bring in quantities of fresh air, and let excess heat out of the building expeditiously.

There is highly efficient spray insulation in the walls and roof as well. The amount of insulation is enough that even though people go in and out of the building all day in the winter, the building uses less natural gas for heating than the old library did, even though the amount of square footage being heated is approximately three times as much. The highly efficient windows and well sealed spaces also contribute to this effect.

If you have looked closely at the building you will notice that there are no gutters. Instead, there are deep roof overhangs and gravel strips along the long sides of the building. The roof drips (during rain and snow storms) and the water soaks into the ground rather than adding to the water going into the storm sewers. Rain gardens are placed on the southwest and northeast lawns.

The flower gardens were not well established; however, I hope that they may be added back in eventually. Usage of native perennial plants could make these beautiful and easy care ways to collect more water and keep it out of the storm drain system. However, even using lawn to catch rain keeps most of the water out of the storm drains.

The deep overhangs on the roof serve a second purpose. They shade the windows to keep direct sun out of the library in the middle of the day in the summer. And the EcoStar roof tiles are part recycled rubber and plastic, and are designed to last at least 50 years.

On the inside, low-flow water fixtures minimize water usage in the building. The electric hand dryers mean less trash generated in the restrooms, as well.
High efficiency light fixtures in the building, and timed lighting controls inside and in the parking lot use less electricity than the usual fixtures. If no one moves in the meeting rooms and the staff room, sensors ensure the lights will turn themselves off.

The parking lot lights are aimed down to be dark sky compliant, and use LED bulbs, which both last much longer than regular bulbs, and use 1/3 as much electricity. The lighting controls in the parking lot turn the lights on at dusk and can be set to turn themselves off at whatever time is preferred. A NYSERDA grant paid for the lighting controls.

It was my hope, when we were working on the plans for this beautiful building, that it would not only be the best and most energy efficient building we could build, but that it could serve as an example of the kind of technology that could benefit the entire community, including private, public, and business buildings.

The more beneficial features of the building can be replicated throughout the area. By doing so, we can save money, natural resources, and be a model for other communities. Whether or not that happens, at least the library can be a model for public buildings in this area and elsewhere. And that is happening.

Librarians and Library Board members from all over Western New York are coming to look at this building, especially if they are in the process of building their own new buildings. It is a triumph, and I, for one, am very proud to have had a hand in this project.

Susan Rudnicky
Former director of Hoag Library