Jones Design Subcommittee Eyes Library Cost Cuts. List Of Libraries Turning Down Grants Grows


Rendering of proposed Jones Library interior. Source:

Jones Library News Highlights For The Week Of August 29, 2022

Library Design Features Considered For Chopping Block To Reduce Budget Gap
The Jones Library Building Committee (JLBC) Design Subcommittee met on August 30 to conduct a “value management” exercise with the aim of closing a renovation-expansion budget gap estimated to range between $10 million and $17 million.  They reviewed 17 possible changes that Owners Project Manager (OPM) Colliers and Designers Finegold Alexander Architects (FAA) have proposed as potential cost savings.

Items #1 and #2 involved building the floors and roof with steel instead of cross laminated timber (CLT).  This modification which would save up to $450,000 was rejected because it was key to sustainability goals and might also save money because the attractiveness of CLT could allow ceilings to be exposed rather than hidden by tile.

Items #3, #4 and #5 contemplated using Arriscraft in lieu of cast stone and metal exterior panels. Cost estimator RLB projected a savings of up to $150,000 by using Hardie Board in place of 50% of the metal panels and Arriscraft exterior.  FAA’s Ellen Anselone initially criticized Hardie Board because it requires eventual painting, but she conceded that “we could look at it.”

“The Mill District, that’s all Hardie Board,” pointed out Subcommittee Chair Christine Gray-Mullen.”

“You know all the developers are using it because it’s the cheapest thing you can get,” added Anselone.

Despite FAA’s concern that flat Hardie Board would not be a good replacement for contoured Arriscraft, the group designated the three items as “accepted.”  FAA agreed to produce renderings of the exterior so that the JLBC could evaluate the aesthetics of this change.

Item #6 proposed to save $170,000 by dispensing with the replacement of the building’s window sashes which Facilities Director George Hicks Richards described as being in poor shape in many cases.  “I’m strongly against leaving them as is,” he said.

It was decided to move the item forward but ask the cost estimator to factor in the expense of refurbishing the existing window sashes.

Item #7 proposed a $320,000 savings by replacing the existing slate roof which needs repair with a metal roof.  FAA suggested that synthetic slate might be another option.  Hicks-Richards explained that from experience he knows that the Amherst Historical Commission is very picky when it comes to roofing materials used on the nationally registered historic building.  This change was designated as “not plausible.”

Item #8 would replace the vertical sawtooth roof sections with flat roof, potentially saving $495,000.  The benefit of the sawtooth roof sections is that they allow in natural light, are less prone to leaking than horizontal skylights and provide a surface on which solar panels can be mounted.

Members of the committee were surprised that photovoltaic solar panels are not part of the current design.  FAA clarified that the building would instead be “photovoltaic ready.”

Director Sharon Sharry and Hicks-Richards were not prepared to give up all seven sawtooth roofs because of the light and sustainability benefits that they add.  The group asked FAA and the OPM to take another look and come back with a proposal that might save money but would not eliminate all sawtooth roof sections.

Item #8 prescribed replacing glass railings with decorative metal railings, for an estimated cost reduction of $85,000.  The committee approved accepting this change.

Item #9 would save $50,000 by replacing several see-through “Nanawall” partitions throughout the building with standard opaque walls.  Nanawalls allow library staff to have a sight line and provide supervision in the area behind the wall.

“Just get rid of the walls altogether,” recommended Sharry.  It was decided to retain a glazed wall in the Teen Room but eliminate the others.

Items #11 and #12 proposed saving $355,000 by replacing compound wood and wood plank ceilings in the new areas with acoustic ceiling tile (ACT).  The FAA designers suggested eliminating ceilings and exposing the CLT roof except in those areas where mechanical equipment needs to be hidden.  Trustee Austin Sarat asked if there might be a problem transitioning from the original section of the building which would continue to have a ceiling, to the new part where the roof would be exposed.  FAA thought it would not be a problem.  Items #11 and #12 were accepted.

Item #13 proposed eliminating a new HVAC system in Special Collections and saving $350,000.  Recognizing the importance of Special Collections, the committee rejected this change.

Items #14 and #15 represented two different replacements for stone and granite pavers on the exterior grounds: concrete sidewalk or brick pavers.  Concrete sidewalk offered the largest savings, estimated to be $575,000. It was decided to accept the concrete sidewalk option, but keep open the possibility that the front walkway might use more attractive pavers if the budget allows.

Item #16 would do away with siding and a sloped roof on the outbuilding replacing the current storage shed.  The estimated cost reduction is $57,000.  The designers advised keeping a sloped roof. Hicks-Richards pointed out that the shed size could be reduced since there was no longer a plan to house a snowplow.  It was decided to change this item to be a partial size reduction which FAA and Hicks-Richards will look at more closely.

Item #17 considered eliminating the outside rain garden for a savings of $78,500. FAA advised that the rain garden was not simply ornamental but was needed for drainage.  The group decided to designate rain garden elimination as not plausible, but to recognize that savings might be realized if engineers determine that a smaller rain garden is possible.

The Design Subcommittee’s determinations on the 17 proposed cost reductions will be presented for approval at the next JLBC meeting on September 8 at 4pm.

Brewster Joins Five Massachusetts Libraries In Withdrawing From MBLC Construction Grants
The Select Board of Brewster, Mass. has turned down a $4.7 million MBLC construction grant for renovation of the Brewster Ladies’ Library due to cost increases, reports the Cape Cod Times.  Between 2017 when the provisional grant was awarded and 2022, the estimated project cost rose from $10.2 million to $16.4 million.

“I know how hard you’ve worked on this project,” selectwoman Cynthia  Bingham told the president of the Library Association. “But we had to balance the impact of this project with the fact that we desperately need a community center. I wonder if we could take a look at this project in pieces. I would have a difficult time voting on the large project.”

Brewster joins a list of at least five other public libraries that have pulled out of the 2016/2017 MBLC funding round after being awarded construction grants. Kingston ($6.9 million), Sutton ($5.0 million), Wayland ($10.1 million), Hingham ($9.2 million) and East Bridgewater ($7.7 million) have all chosen to turn down grant awards.

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4 thoughts on “Jones Design Subcommittee Eyes Library Cost Cuts. List Of Libraries Turning Down Grants Grows

  1. Of all the hours of conversations and numbers of comments that could have been quoted it’s incredible to me that false information and negativity toward The Mill District and “developers” is what rose to the top for publication about the library. More incredible to me is that copy editors didn’t see these quotes as worth striking. Anti business bias should be checked in a publication calling itself progressive and independent.

    This week your jones library article quotes Christine Gray-Mullen making false statements and Anselone cooberating and maligning community investors / for taking the cheap way out

    I wish the Indy would help sustain our local community and economy by recognizing and supporting and not maligning people who try hard every day to build amazing places and experiences.

    Contrary to your uninformed quote, Hardi Plank is used not because developers are cheap. It’s a material of choice because the installation cost is very similar to other material choices but it’s 50 year guaranteed, it’s rot and insect resistant, and it looks like other materials. Being 90% sand and cement it’s pretty fireproof. But it’s also very heavy. Material cost savings are made up for in installation challenges and time. The installation cost of Hardie is similar to that of other materials.

    Contrary to another uninformed and insulting quote you opted to print, The Mill District is not all made out of hardie board. Beacon built North Square on land they lease from The Mill District. They are one tenant with two buildings out of dozens in The Mill District.

    Maybe Beacon used Hardie Board because of it’s excellent durability and performance. The installed cost between wood and Hardie is negligible. All the rest of the buildings in The Mill District are not in fact built out of Hardi Plank.

    – When the Mill District rebuilt the Cow Barn, we used locally locally grown, locally harvested, locally milled, locally planed North Amherst sawmill pine lumber.

    – When we built what I think is the prettiest and most significant new building in town, The Trolley Barn, we used the most expensive material on the market. A metal cladding made by Marvin Windows, that unfortunately has since been discontinued.

    – Cowls Buildling Supply uses metal siding

    – Riverside Park Shops buildings are Brick.

    – All of our residential rentals are wood sided except for Riverside Park apartments which are Brick veneer. Riverside’s personal garages for each residential unit are made of locally milled lumber.

    It’s really hard to build new enterprises and grow local resilience. Local businesses would appreciate your acknowledgement of the good work we do and your fact checking not publication when we’re maligned.

    Thanks for considering.

  2. Cinda, the quotes you reference were included to illuminate the discussion of the merits of Hardie Board at the JLBC Design Subcommittee meeting and were in no way meant to slight business, developers or the Mill District. Your explanation of the building materials used at the Mill District is helpful, but Ms. Gray-Mullen and Ms. Anselone were speaking metaphorically in reference to the library and might be forgiven if their statements were not precisely accurate. Readers can get the full context of the discussion at

    I am just one Amherst Indy contributor and reader, but my observation is that criticisms of development tend to center on the continuing displacement of families and permanent residents in Amherst due to developers understandably opting for less risky and more lucrative investment in student housing. Commercial development of the type undertaken at the Mill District, that provides opportunities for locals to shop, eat and gather, is generally well received.

  3. I think the hardie board siding in the mill district looks really nice. I’m not sure how it will look on the jones tho.

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