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Sen Architects LLP

Overview: This new Kensington Branch will be the second high-performance building of the Brooklyn Public Library, one that goes beyond the features of the 1999 South Jamaica Branch Library. The Kensington Branch has been designed with a strong and welcoming Civic presence, and a visual transparency that compliments the great reading spaces within. The Art Commission of the City of New York heralded this project for its successful integration of green design with other human, urban, and architectural aspects. The building will make a delightful library for the users while being environmentally effective. The building will contain a main reading room, a children’s reading area, a computer lab for public Internet use, circulation and staff support spaces, and a multi-purpose community room.

Sustainable Features: Located in a residential area, the building is organized around the concept of daylight, with a central top-lit atrium, north-facing high-performance curtain wall, south-facing garden wall, and sidewall set-back for east exposure. The skylight and main North side glazing bathe the entire library with natural light throughout the daylight hours. A simple computer-controlled louver system installed below the skylights moves with the sun to eliminate glare that may disturb the readers. The high-performance lighting system supports the daylighting, with dimming and occupancy controls. This integrated daylight and electric light strategy will significantly reduce the building’s use of electrical lighting. To accomplish this, the daylighting was simulated using the Radiance computer program.

Ground-source heat pumps will reduce the use of fossil fuels, exchanging between the building and the constant temperature of the earth below the building. The test well indicated that there is sufficient water flow in a layer of sand/gravel 240 feet below-grade to support an open loop system. This system eliminates noisy cooling equipment from the roof, as well as the on-site emissions associated with conventional mechanical systems – making this green building a good neighbor in the residential community. Carefully selected materials and details contribute to good indoor air quality and easy maintenance.

Located in Kensington/Borough Park Brooklyn, New York. Size: 15,000 gross square feet. Construction cost of $8,000,000. Building completion pending (Design commenced 2001).

Client Agencies: Brooklyn Public Library; NYC Department of Design & Construction.

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Sustainable Site

Stormwater run-off reduced
Alternate transportation nearby
Urban Heat Island Effect mitigated
Nighttime light pollution reduced

Native drought-resistant plantings; permeable paving
Light-colored, high-reflectance, low-emissivity roofing
Skylights and windows screened to limit bothersome light escape at night
Urban setting near public transportation


Water Efficiency

Potable water use reduced in building
Landscaping uses no potable water

Low-flow fixtures, flow restrictors
Native drought-resistant plants requiring no irrigation



Fossil fuel use reduced
Energy use reduced – 33% over a baseline NYS Energy Conservation Code
Annual energy savings of $9,400 (2002 rates)
Payback – 11 years simple payback of energy conserving measures
Ozone depletion reduced
System-operations integrated

Geothermal heat pumps, open loop water-to-water
Daylighting for all regularly occupied spaces, using windows, skylights, light
shelves, fritted glass curtain wall
High-performance lighting, daylight dimming, occupancy controls
Natural ventilation with skylight louvers and operable windows
BMS system with remote monitoring
Terra cotta rainscreen panel system provides breathable exterior wall
High-efficiency multi-zone variable-air-volume system and controls
Commissioning of systems
Stairs inviting and centrally located to encourage use


Material Conservation

Recycled materials used
Local products given preference
Rapidly renewable products used
Forest Stewardship Council wood products required
Materials conserved

Major materials targeted for recycled content, including ceiling tiles, rubber
flooring made from tires, terrazzo flooring, wheat-board substrates, fly-ash in
concrete, steel, gypsum board
Bamboo wood flooring, rubber and linoleum resilient flooring, cork display
Lumber and wood veneer from managed forests required
Materials for exterior cladding reduced by design
Rain screen used at the exterior facade


Healthy Interiors

Controlled daylight maximized; views outside maximized
Reduced exposure to toxins, volatile organic compounds, urea formaldehyde
Occupant-controlled lighting, heating, and cooling
Building systems and occupants protected from construction contamination
Sound from HVAC components controlled

Expansive low-emissivity glazing, controlled from glare – atrium skylights with
louver-controlled sun filters, clear north-facing windows, light shelves/fritted
glass on the east, deep-set south windows
Natural ventilation; air intakes remote from street traffic
Low-emitting paints, adhesives, sealants, non-urea-formaldehyde wheat-
Separate ventilation for interior service areas; walk-off grilles
Air quality management during construction planned
AC units mounted on roof curbs; sound attenuators in ductwork


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