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DC Public Library
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Problem Statement

The DC Public Library has 25 library locations serving a population of approximately 600,000 in the District of Columbia. Starting in 2008, the Library embarked on an ambitious program to rebuild or renovate 13 libraries across the city. The physical condition of these buildings was poor, and in many cases the electrical and mechanical systems needed to be replaced. These buildings were not ADA compliant, and the overall layout was inefficient and lacked flexibility needed for providing state-of-the-art library services. One library experienced a tragic fire.


DC Public Library sought to create sustainable buildings to minimize the impact on the environment. The challenge was to create iconic new buildings that would serve as beacons in the community. The libraries needed to feature welcoming spaces for children, teens and adults, while maintaining flexibility for the future. The Library hired award-winning architects and directed them to design modern, forward-looking libraries. Three of the libraries (Georgetown, Petworth and Mt. Pleasant) were historic buildings, which presented a special set of challenges to the architects. A chief goal was to design buildings with plenty of natural light with large expanses of glass to draw passersby in to the library, while simultaneously providing a connection back to the community from inside.


To date, the Library has opened 10 new or completely renovated buildings, all of which will receive LEED Silver Certification or higher from the US Green Building Council. Three more libraries will open by the end of 2011. The buildings incorporate a variety of environmentally friendly features such a vegetative or reflective green roofs, energy efficient lighting, use of materials with recycled content, low-flow faucets, dual flush toilets, solar panels for hot water, staff showers, and a bioretention pond to absorb storm water.

The Library is working to educate the public about the sustainable elements of each building through tours, signage, videos and other messaging.