Fact Check: This Week At the Jones Library August 23 – 29. Questions About Energy and Sustainability

Architects rendering of the proposed renovated Jones Library. Feingold Alexander Architects. Photo: Jones Library

Videri Quam Esse
(To Seem To Be Rather Than To Be)

The Jones Library is continuing a new column in their weekly email newsletter about the proposed library demolition/expansion project. Residents can sign up for this newsletter by following the link https://www.joneslibrary.org/list.aspx and going to “News Flash – Jones 

I will fact check this column for the Indy. Statements from the Jones are quoted from their newsletter below in italics. 

Jones Building Project Update
Memo to Paul Bockelman, 12-28-18: “Town of Amherst Sustainability” 
“In summary, for the Town to achieve the goal and vision of a sustainable Amherst, a commitment of time and collective thought is required to develop a plan that focuses on climate mitigation, adaptation and resiliency in the face of an inevitably changing climate. Ultimately, commitment to the goal will be necessary across all sectors of the Town – its government, institutions, residents, agriculture and businesses.” ~ Stephanie Ciccarello, Amherst Sustainability Coordinator

On November 6, 2017, during an FY18 Special Town Meeting, the Town unanimously passed Article 16, a resolution in support of 100 percent renewable energy, in which the Town resolved to “commit to a goal of 100% clean, renewable energy and to move as quickly as possible to achieve that goal.”  The Jones Library’s proposed expansion project will help the Town reach its sustainability goals by bringing the Jones’ Energy Use Intensity (EUI) down from 73.2 kBtu/sf/year to 34.4 kBtu/sf/year. And by implementing further energy conservation measures (ECM), including the purchase of off-site renewable energy, net-zero energy can be achieved. 

Many of the statements in the above paragraph are MISLEADING.

Town Meeting did pass an important renewable energy article in November, 2017. However, five months earlier, the Jones Board of Trustees failed to apply for a Green Library Initiative Award in their state grant application. They could have received up to $450,000 based upon the size of this project. Even though the building proposal must now be re-configured due to a major design flaw, the Trustees can no longer apply for these funds in this grant round. The Trustees formed a Sustainability Committee, which began meeting in October, 2019.

The new design will provide significant energy savings. Yet to reach these savings, the Trustees plan to demolish the entire 1993 addition with no study of how it might be utilized in a renovation/expansion project. Replacing the demolished square footage and expanding will require 35,800 sq. ft. of new construction as well as create over 1,660 tons of landfill waste.  The energy costs of this demolition and disposal have not been factored into the professed energy savings. 

On August 14, 2020, the Sustainability Committee recommended that the Trustees spend an additional $650,000 for the proposed project. This total includes $290,650 for Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) above and beyond the current design, and $365,926 for a cross-laminated timber (CLT) frame system instead of steel framing. 

There is little clarity about how these extra expenditures could fit into the current $35.8 million budget for the project (not including debt service) and what features in the current design plans might be adjusted or sacrificed in order to incorporate these features. Fundraising, grants, and rebates for such elements are also unknown at this time. Approval from the Board of Trustees is pending.

Although the plans are touted to be net-zero “ready,” no specific cost figures for purchasing off-site renewable energy have been provided. It will not be a net-zero building until renewable energy is procured. The library is already struggling with its budget and the yearly cost of purchasing renewables could be hard to absorb.

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