Letter: Jones Library Should Be Net Zero On Day One

R.W. Kern Center, a net zero building at Hampshire College. Photo: hampshire.edu

Letter: Jones Library Should Be Net Zero On Day One

How can Amherst even consider building a large new library addition and renovation that is not net zero energy on day one? Can we really be that irresponsible? Do we not know what’s happening to others on our planet?  Are we oblivious to the devastating fires and hurricanes that are happening in other locales? We have the technology to build net zero right now! The library is exempt from the town bylaw because it’s not actually a town building, but does that mean we ignore the responsibility to build responsibly?

We have beautiful examples of large net zero buildings in our Town: the Hitchcock Center, the Kern Center, South Amherst Congregational Church, Crotty Hall. Let’s build on those examples with a truly fine new library.

I would love to see a beautiful new net zero addition and renovation to the Jones library. I love that library and use it extensively (pre-pandemic). I would excitedly support net zero construction, even though it could be a challenge for me to pay the extra taxes. But I cannot support the plan as it exists. Friends, the planet is calling out to us. Can we listen?

Anne Perkins

Anne Perkins is a Member of The  Amherst Zero Energy Task Force

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2 thoughts on “Letter: Jones Library Should Be Net Zero On Day One

  1. While perhaps the planned library building doesn’t officially fall under the specific net-zero bylaw, the library sustainability committee has done an amazing job ensuring the planned building will be net-zero by any other definition. It will not use fossil fuels, it will be significantly more energy-efficient, and it will utilize low-impact materials. It will be ready to run completely on renewable electricity, and we can support more town and regional solar projects to ensure it does. Holding all buildings to a standard that they must create their own renewable electricity to be net-zero will make it very difficult for us to meet our climate goals in a cost-effective way. We need system-level changes to our electric utilities and buildings that are ready to run effectively on renewable energy – I am very excited that this building will do that! Our alternative is to keep operating a building that utilizes a significant amount of natural gas for the foreseeable future.

  2. Anne, if you are willing and able, it might be worth you volunteering to serve on the building committee that will oversee the design development and construction of this project (presuming there will be a Building Committee) to help ensure the building is built to the proposed EUI 29.

    It has become clear that the project budget is under pressure and I expect there will be temptation to cut the Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) that have been adopted to save on cost. The adopted measures are Controls for Lighting, HVAC Occupancy, HVAC Demand Ventilation, Plug Load, a 10kWh PV array for the roof, and some Cross-Laminated Timber. It seems unlikely that the ECMs that were not selected — which include adding insulation to the existing building’s walls/attic/floor and adding triple glazing and window overhangs — will be added later since other things would have to be cut to pay for them.

    The architects have said that, without any of the ECMs, the building will still achieve an EUI of 34. However, it’s unclear if the modeling for this assumed all windows would be double-glazed and there would be no added insulation to the existing building, or if the modeling was assuming all of the ECMs would be included. In the Fort River study, a design that met the energy code resulted in an EUI 50 building. To get to an EUI of 30, it required increasing insulation thicknesses, triple-glazing throughout, reduced glazing areas, and using higher performance HVAC systems such as the Chilled Beam system with an Air Source or Ground Source Heat pump.

    It would be good to have close oversight through design and construction of the library to ensure the building will be as sustainable as we all hope and expect.

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