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Construction has been humming along all summer on the E.C. Scranton Memorial Library renovation project and residents have been keeping an eye on the noticeable progress. While many residents are looking forward to the new building and its many amenities, a lot of work has also gone into improvements that might not be as obvious to the naked eye: making this library as energy-efficient as possible.
The E.C. Scranton Memorial Library renovation process officially started in 2017, when voters approved bonding $9 million for the project and the library pledged to raise $6 million to cover the remaining project costs.
In 2018, the Library Building Committee went through a series of building design changes and funding scares. One of the big challenges was that the initial design did not take into consideration that a new building would have significantly higher operating costs if nothing was done to make the building energy efficient.
Seeing the challenge at hand, committee member Woodie Weiss took it upon himself to make sure the new building is as efficient as possible, looking at options ranging from more solar panels on the roof to energy performance sponsorships.
The project recently received approval from Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) for a 120kW roof-mounted photovoltaic (PV) system that will provide 35 percent of all of the electricity used in the building. Weiss said the committee also received financial support to investigate energy-efficient designs.
“We entered the EnergizeCT Whole Building Performance program and qualified for a $41,500 incentive for designing the building to be 23.4 percent more efficient than a new building designed to meet current codes,” he said. “The key was ground-sourced heat pump heating and cooling, 100 percent LED lighting, energy efficient windows, and significantly improved insulation.”
Another key component of this building design is the effort put toward having no reliance on fossil fuels—coal, oil, or gas.
“We will be installing solar hot water panels to provide the bulk of the hot water needs of the building and a heat pump backup hot water heater,” he said. “No fossil fuel.”
While Weiss said making sure the building is as green as possible is key, he also wants to make sure the public can understand and appreciate how efficient this new building will be. When the building opens to the public, Weiss said the plan is to have a screen monitor in one of the rooms that will display “the building’s power consumption, PV production, and percentage of power provided by the PV instantaneously, by month and by year”.
“It will show actual heating and cooling loads, how much of that is coming from the earth, and the percentage of heating and cooling needs that are supplied by the earth,” he said. “Same for the solar hot water system—should be a real eye opener.”
In 2018, the Library Building Committee went through a series of building design changes and funding scares. By far one of the largest challenges the Library Building Committee encountered came up in summer 2018 after the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) threatened to withhold a large part of the renovation project funding over preservation of the Hull Building. The issue took time to resolve, but the committee and SHPO were eventually able to come to terms, sparing the project any more funding challenges or timeline issues.
With all approvals in place, the committee put the project out to bid; the winning bid, $9,847,952 (less than the roughly $11 million construction threshold for the project), was by Enterprise Builders. The contractor was on site and starting work shortly after the New Year.
On March 5, the Hull Building on the site was officially demolished. The old post office, also known as the white building, on the property has been shifted and turned.
When the building cost estimate first came in below budget, there was some public confusion on the need for the library to keep fundraising. However, initial construction costs may have come in under budget, but the library intends to revise the plan to spend $15 million to build the library because of the way some of the project grant money works. The way the $2 million in state grants are structured, if the total project comes in under budget, the state gets to take back money first, so essentially, if the project were to come in at $14 million instead of $15 million, the cost to Madison would remain the same.
Library Board of Trustees President Beth Coyne previously said that fact is another reason why the library is looking at bringing back some deferred maintenance projects like repairs to the existing roof, repointing the masonry on the historical portion of the building, and rethinking the financing on the PV panels for the roof.
The library continues to fundraise to hit the $6 million total. With approximately $650,000 left to raise, the last fundraising initiative, The Golden Shovel Society—a group of donors recognized for giving $1,000 or more—was announced at the formal groundbreaking ceremony back in March.
For more information on the library and the fundraising campaigns, visit scrantonlibrary.org or call 203-245-7365.
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