Sacred Heart Schools Stevens Net Zero Library

This new Net Zero Energy (NZEB) certified library is the academic and social heart of Sacred Heart Schools’ new K-8 campus, located in Atherton, California. The 6,800 square foot building is the first library in the U.S. to be NZEB certified by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). The project serves as a model for its community and reflects the school’s values of social awareness, sustainability, and intellectual curiosity. In an effort to bring the school’s sustainable story to the forefront, its water and energy management systems are placed on display as learning tools.

The library includes seven workspaces, two meeting rooms, two technology workspaces, a conference room, an office, a workroom, and the main, open-space library room. All of these spaces can convert to single- or multiple-occupant uses to allow for growth or change, and already changed function twice in the first year of use. The main library space — which sits behind the covered southern entry porch and opens out to a reading garden — accommodates stacks, K–3 story time, online research, student clubs, group learning, staff training, events, community workshops, and informal gathering. The auxiliary spaces accommodate testing, one-on-one tutoring, meetings, small and medium-sized classes, laptop lending, and IT support.

Water is celebrated throughout the campus, nowhere more so than at the library. The roof captures rainwater to irrigate an eco-orchard. A folding glass door on the library exterior displays water management controls and the rainwater tank, ready to be observed by young scientists or enjoyed casually during a lunch break. Graphics explain the rainwater collection system and additional campus conservation measures including low-flow planters and bioswales.

Material conservation is made evident in the library’s main reception desk — using found stone and site wood from the school’s campus. Site trees were milled for the reception desk, with the counter topped by surplus stone found from various locations. This reuse of the site material provides a story, memory, and educational opportunity for the students and community, allowing for kids to learn early on about the importance of using local materials and reducing your carbon footprint.

High-performance glazing and added rigid insulation to reduce thermal bridging in the roofs and walls provide a good foundation for reduced energy loads. Solar tubes and daylight monitoring of high-performance lighting systems reduce energy demand. Windows provide natural ventilation and good daylighting while high efficiency systems, such as displacement ventilation, provide conditioning. A 42.5-kW photovoltaic system provides all energy needed for the library. The first year resulted in a 26,686.6 kWh demand and was met with a 53,188 kWh production. While forecasted with an EUI of 27, the first year measured result is 14.5 kbtu/sf/yr. These results are on display along with the water use of the library and eco-orchard. Designed to meet the Living Building Challenge petals of Energy, Water, Habitat and Equity, the library expects to be certified as Zero Net Energy.

The project was designed and construction at 20% below industry standard prices, proving that sustainable design can be done at any price.

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