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Missoula library: Saving energy with an eco-friendly, efficient design

Posted at 2:55 PM, Nov 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-14 16:55:54-05

The design team behind the new Missoula Public Library looked to The 2030 Challenge when considering the new facility, and now that the building has risen on its downtown footings, its energy savings will start when the lights come on.

Jon Sears, construction manager with A&E in Missoula, said the 88,000 square-foot library will be “70% more efficient in energy consumption” than a comparable project. That’s “70% less energy consumed from fossil fuels when compared to the average median energy consumption of a new building in the region,” he said.

Designed for The 2030 Challenge – an architecture sustainability challenge – the modern $36 million facility will incrementally become “energy-neutral.” Sears said the four-story building meets many of The 2030 Challenge criteria, based on an energy design analysis that includes energy use intensity.

It will also include 64% less power for interior lighting, 36% less power for exterior lighting, and 29% less in consumption of natural gas.

“We’re taking advantage of the sunlight,” Sears said. “There’s a lot of natural lighting from windows on the perimeter.”

The facility will use less energy overall, minimizing dependency on artificial lighting, blocking direct sunlight on the exterior during the summer, and promoting heat gain during the winter. A geothermal aquifer, based on a careful environmental study, will be added for heating and cooling and could provide cost savings over the long term.

“We’re tapping into something that is producing heat on its own,” said Sears, adding that the aquifer will use heat from the ground to warm up the temperature of the air. “In the end, the library’s going to save money by reducing heating costs.”

On a more holistic level, the design team took into consideration “human comfort and well-being” in the form of low-Volatile Organic Compounds in carpets, paint, sealants and adhesives. Certain floors will offer unisex bathrooms and easy access for “equity design.”

Other factors he expects will lessen the environmental impact include the use of low-toxicity materials, using recycled materials whenever possible, and recycling or segregating the waste stream.

The design also looks to sustainable lumber, based on Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards. The FSC is an international organization established in 1993 that sets standards on forest products and labels eco-friendly materials.

Step by step, Sears expects the library to meet its energy goals. It remains to be seen whether or not solar energy will eventually be included.

“We did not have a solar budget, but we have a provision,” added Sears. “The design did take into account to put in solar on the third and fourth floors, but that’s up to the library board.”

Collaboratively, the design team aimed to increase overall functionality of the library.

Sears is one of a large group of design team members that have collaborated on the old library site on Front Street. Other designers on the project include MSR, Morrison-Maierle, Eclipse Engineering, Dick Anderson Construction and about 10 other consultants.

Levels 1 through 4 include roughly 88,000 square feet of library space. The parking lot and support spaces add another 18,000 square feet for a total of about 100,000 square feet for the entire project.

Contact Business Reporter Renata Birkenbuel at and 406-565-0013.