If buildings wore big sun hats, this is exactly what it would look like. The Cesar Chavez Library in Phoenix is protected from the harsh desert sun with a soaring overhanging roof, and integrates a number of other sustainable design strategies to minimize energy use. Designed by Line and Space for the growing community of Laveen, the eco library is tucked into earth berms next to a small lake. The lake acts as the community's backyard, and the library is like its living room where anyone can come rest, read, learn and play.
The 25,000 sq ft library was completed in 2008 and supports around 40,000 visitors a month and keeps 140,000 volumes. Besides the traditional books, the library also hosts a computer lab, children’s reading room, a teen area with MP3 listening areas and computer stations dubbed “R3” (Read Relax Rejuvenate), and a public meeting area. The new library was integrated into the existing lakeside location and curved around the lake to fit within the context of the parkscape. The building backs into earth berms to take advantage of their temperature moderating effects and noise reducing capabilities.
Passive solar design and building orientation were key design strategies used to minimize solar heat gain. Daylighting seeps in through the north and south facades, with deep overhangs that protect the interior from the harsh sun. Meanwhile, the west side features no windows at all to block out the heat of the day. The large overhangs provide extra space outdoors for seating and gathering. In one spot, exhaust air from within the building is directed outside next to the patio, and reused to temper the microclimate. Energy efficient mechanical systems and an automated energy management system further reduce energy usage.
Materials like concrete masonry, steel and aluminum were chosen for their low maintenance, durability, local availability and ease of recycling. Rainwater is collected from the roof and directed into the nearby lake, where it is used in conjunction with condensate from mechanical units in the park for irrigation. This total amount of collected water offsets the water used for flushing during the year. The Cesar Chavez Library was awarded with the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment’s (COTE) Top Ten Green Projects for 2008, it is also one of ten American Landmark Libraries nominated by Library Journal, and has been awarded with LEED Silver certification.
Images ©Bill Timmerman