The Emerald City’s New Library

As architects from the firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ) set out to design a new library for the community of Ballard, a small residential neighbourhood close to Seattle, they had an ambitious vision. They wanted to build a library that would be a shining example of ‘green’ architecture, one that would show the community’s residents, the state and the rest of the country that you can construct a beautiful, environmentally friendly public building. This was not a vision being imposed by the architects on a reluctant or apathetic community. Rather, when the architects met with Ballard’s residents to discuss plans for the new library in the area, what they heard time and again from residents was their desire that the library building be as environmentally friendly as possible.

To realise this vision, BCJ’s architects incorporated some of the latest ideas on ‘green’ construction in the building’s design. When the architects’ studies revealed a solar gain problem (overheating caused when a building’s windows let in too much sunlight) in the south-western corner of the library, they realised that this might be an opportunity for them to incorporate solar power into the building, in the form of SCHOTT ASI® Thru solar modules. Further research revealed to them that a programme sponsored by Seattle City Light would subsidise their use of SCHOTT’s ASI® Thru, and also enable them to place 17 SCHOTT ASE 300-watt crystalline solar modules on the building’s roof.

This use of SCHOTT solar power solutions would remove the need to use louvres to shade the south-western corner of the building, which would have obscured the view outside. It would also reduce the library’s use of electricity generated by fossil fuels, further support community residents’ dream of building a ‘green’ library.

The installation of 38 SCHOTT ASI® Thru solar modules in the curved glass wall of windows proved to be both an aesthetic and functional success. The shading provided by the ASI® Thru panels solved the solar gain problem, whilst their transparency enables library patrons to view the neighbourhood’s bustling Market Street, further connecting the library to the community it serves.

The use of ASI® Glass to integrate solar power systems into the building itself, along with the construction of a glass rooftop viewing platform that enables library patrons to view both the library’s rooftop garden and its crystalline solar modules, have enabled the architects to design a building where “solar power is not a distraction, but an essential part of the building’s architecture”.

Ballard residents’ original vision for their library – an example of how man can construct buildings that both provide access to the fruits of civilisation and still remain in harmony with nature – might turn out to be even more influential than even they imagined.

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