David Richards: architect, tree hugger and husband. Gilroy: a small city that spends BIG on books. Yay.

Everything herein is reposted from and links back to the Gilroy Dispatch. Thanks to them. I’m proud of you David. You are kind and smart and you do good things.

Green, and the envy of all other libraries

Solar panels, energy-saving lights, weather controlled thermostat make library most eco-friendly building in Gilroy

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size
New Gilroy Library Lora Schraft

New Gilroy Library

India Garcia, 4, peers through the glass, frosted with branches, into the upstairs library entrance.

Posted: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 10:27 am | Updated: 2:08 pm, Wed Apr 25, 2012.


Posted on April 24, 2012

Unlike San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences – an architectural marvel widely revered for its 197,000-square-foot “living rooftop” adorned by a tapestry of native plant species – one of Gilroy’s most eco-friendly edifices doesn’t outwardly flaunt its environmental virtue.

The Garlic Capital’s greenest building, in fact, is the color of khaki pants.

But, much in the way of Chevy Volts, Energy Star-rated refrigerators or water–powered alarm clocks, the inner-workings of Gilroy’s newest literacy lair is the stuff of environmental righteousness.

David Richards, the project manager in charge and principal with the 104-year-old national architect firm Harley, Ellis & Devereaux that designed the “Tree City USA” themed library, said his favorite feature is the building’s “relationship with the outdoors.”

Richards knows a thing or two about dreaming up tree-hugger-approved structures. Harley, Ellis & Devereaux is currently working on a “net zero” library in Berkeley, meaning it will eventually produce enough of its own energy to offset the energy it uses.

Patrons who curl up in one of the Gilroy library’s lime–hued lounge chairs for hours of relaxed reading can appreciate the building’s automated system of mixed mode ventilation. Fewer than 10 percent of California’s buildings have this snazzy temperature control feature, according to Richards.

Pointing to a gizmo with multiple antennas as he led a tour group along the library’s roof, City of Gilroy Public Information Officer Joe Kline said the apparatus employs a computerized weather station that regulates the building’s air conditioning, heating and windows, which are powered by electric motors.

Using the mixed mode approach should enable the library to operate its mechanical systems at 70 percent less than it normally would during operating hours, Richards noted.

A weatherized-thermostat isn’t the only feature that will make the environmentally conscious swoon, however.

Students who sprawl out at one of the many spacious tables for hours of uninterrupted study time will plug their laptops into outlets powered by 4,400 square feet of solar panels, which will supply the library with an average 21 percent of its annual power needs.

Suzanne Collins fans hunting for the last copy of “The Hunger Games” might notice a secondary motion sensor light that flips on when they approach any bookshelf – a special two-stage lighting system that illuminates the stacks when people are around – but otherwise employs minimal light usage, Kline explained. Vast windows that seemingly take up entire walls, along with special “light tubes” funneling natural sunlight from the roof into the building, mitigate the need to flip on every single light switch. Exterior walls consisting of 12-inch thick concrete provide solid insulation. Permeable pavers surrounding the library absorb rain runoff, directing it back into the natural water table as opposed to storm drains.

And heavens, however do those library clerks and volunteers who jog or ride their bikes to work still look so fresh and fabulous?

“We welcome a shower,” grinned Head Librarian Lani Yoshimura during a recent tour of the staff locker room.

If the 20-foot, fire engine red bike rack (playfully designed to resemble a giant bicycle) near the library’s entryway isn’t an obvious encouragement for staff to ditch the car and opt for a transportation mode with a smaller carbon footprint, installing showers in the break room ensures they won’t have to worry about smelling like a dirty gym sock for the rest of the day.

The old library built in 1975 (formerly located in the same spot as the new library) wasn’t thrown out with the bathwater either. Kline said 80 percent of the 12,500-square-foot building was recycled, with 91 percent of the demolished materials ultimately diverted from a landfill.

Richards anticipates the new library will receive a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certification after it goes through a one-year certification period. As gold is the second highest of the four LEED categories, “almost nothing gets platinum,” noted Richards. “It’s pretty difficult.”

Awarded by an independent, third party, a LEED certification is the ultimate “bragging right” in the world of green building. This badge of honor denotes high performances in sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

In other words, a LEED certification will make Mother Nature very proud.

Healing place for the soul

From its ambiance to natural lighting to its new-book smell – the building is a beauty

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size
New Library Lora Schraft

New Library

Paneling on the front of the information kiosk at the entrance on the first floor.

Posted: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 10:43 am | Updated: 4:13 pm, Tue Apr 24, 2012.

1 comment

Posted on April 24, 2012

If libraries are in fact, “a healing place of the soul” – as the axiom inscribed above the entrance to a library in Thebes, Ancient Greece aptly declares – Gilroy’s brand-new library is one powerful elixir.

It’s a gorgeous day outside. The best we’ve had all year, according to local weather stations.

Sitting down on a Friday to work indoors when its 80 degrees outside doesn’t feel like such an injustice, however – not when you’re enveloped by second-story views of thick poplar trees, leafy branches drifting in the breeze and a backdrop of verdant rolling hills rising up in the distance like sleeping giants.

It’s this sort of seamless “relationship with the outdoors” that David Richards, principal with the national architecture firm Harley, Ellis & Devereaux who dreamed up Gilroy’s newest structural jewel, says he likes the most.

Stately arched windows, the use of shape in woodwork, an airy ambiance and calming tones such as dark blue, deep purple, light green and earthy neutrals impart a natural transition from the outside world upon breezing through the library’s sliding front doors.

Head Librarian Lani Yoshimura often alludes to one of her favorite aesthetic elements; the building’s deliberate harnessing of natural sunlight.

“The quality of light is just spectacular in some places,” she said. “You get tremendous light deep into the building.”

From the uninhibited beams of sunlight that flood the interior through massive windows, to the lofty A-frame ceiling rising high above the book stacks, to the various reading nooks festooned with artsy light fixtures, to glass dividers that create a sense of openness from one area to the next, to the celestial crop of staggered lamps emitting a soft glow above the computer desks: Readers of all ages who once frequented the former 12,500-square-foot library, and even more confined interim building on Monterey Street downtown, will bask in the attractive ambiance of Gilroy’s stunning new community Mecca.

As Yoshimura pointed out, the endless supply of elbow room inside this 52,000-square-foot building is something to relish.

“It’s just an absolute luxury of space,” she said. “In the other building you would have teen center right next to the quiet study area.”

“Luxury” is an apropos characterization, what with banquet-style tables that can fit up to 12 homework buddies; coffee-shop style study bars ideal for laptop users; clusters upon clusters of comfy cushioned arm chairs; cozy reading nooks tucked away in quiet corners; and beckoning window seats warmed by sunlight – perfect for getting lost in that copy of “The Hobbit” you happened upon while perusing the fiction section.

An outdoor brick courtyard encircled by a budding garden and young trees will no doubt offer the best of both worlds on hot August afternoons, when library-goers can make simultaneous headway on their suntans and summer reading list.

“It reminds me of Disneyland, in the sense that everything is first class. There was a great deal of thought that went into this,” said the city’s Public Information Officer Joe Kline during one of his copious library tours, prior to its grand opening.

Kline strolled down one of the outdoor corridors, shaded by a wood trellis that will someday be heavily cloaked in wispy vines of wisteria as it continues to grow.

Room to sprawl is just one feature constituting the library’s appealing aura. Little details such as reference desks that sparkle with veneers of virtuozzo (countertops made from concrete and pieces of recycled glass) show just as much thought was given to the immense, as it was the intricate.

A prevalent theme throughout the library incorporates trees into the décor, such as walls in the library that come alive with colorful, two-dimensional tree silhouettes. In the downstairs and upstairs lobbies, glass panels exquisitely etched with images of branches inject elegant flair into otherwise common spaces.

This particular design element speaks to Gilroy’s heritage as a “Tree City USA,” Richards said.

For those of us who aren’t familiar with “Tree City USA,” this program is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation and provides direction to cities regarding urban and community forestry programs. At 32 years and counting, Gilroy is the fourth-longest city in California to actively participate in the program, according to the organizations’ website.

While Yoshimura’s hands are little full to be thinking about the luxuries of decorating, she salvaged from the old library a pair of “wonderful” wood doors with a large bird carved into them.

“We stored (the doors), and hopefully we’ll be able to bring them back into the building as a design element,” she noted.

Perhaps most striking of the library ornaments is a pastoral motif depicting open sky, layers of rolling hills and shaded forests. Hanging securely from the wall above the second floor, Richards said this lovely abstract creation was instilled by one of the library’s views that looks west toward Mount Madonna.

“We didn’t necessarily want it to look like art,” he added. “It’s supposed to be inspirational: There’s always something over the hill that might be worth going after and driving for.”

1 Comment

  1. Fantastic! Bravo David! Looking forward to seeing it in person.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *