Best Green Project: White Tank Branch Library and Nature Center

Photos By Bill Timmerman PHotography
White Tank Branch Library and Nature Center

Arizona's first LEED-Platinum public library is located at the entrance of a mountain park and is surrounded entirely by desert.

"We found building in a very rural area that is nearly off the grid to be a real challenge," says Adam Sprenger, associate architect with DWL Architects + Planners in Phoenix. "This project used onsite well water because public water did not exist. We needed to upgrade data capacity for miles to the site and installed a large onsite septic system because public sewers didn't exist that far out."

With the goal to return as much of the site back to its native appearance as possible after construction was over, more than 130 native plants—including nearly 50 saguaros—were salvaged prior to civil improvements and mass grading and then re-introduced as part of the natural landscaping.

The library's collection, comprising 35,000 items, serves nearly 50,000 people. Patrons can read while enjoying sweeping views through the main reading room's panoramic windows. Paint colors were inspired by the natural environment, and Native American petroglyphs found on boulders in the nearby park inspired carvings on the walls.

The library also has a Nature Center, which provides a critter exhibit, public meeting rooms, amphitheater and numerous educational programs.

A 228-panel rooftop photovoltaic collector array provides 27% of the building's power, while the 44-KW air system saves almost $20,000 annually. One of the more innovative energy-saving features is the automated MechoShade system: the computer-controlled window shades use a rooftop photocell to measure the amount of sunlight reaching the building to determine whether to raise or lower the shades to reduce glare and heat gain.

Sprenger says the desire to create a meaningful sustainable space for the community can be contagious. "The owner and contractor quickly latched onto that idea, and when the trades worked on the project, they knew they were working on a project that would mean something to their friends and families," he says.


Submitted by: DWL Architects + Planners Inc.

Key Players

Owner: Maricopa County Library District, Phoenix

Contractor: Mortenson Construction, Chandler, Ariz.

Lead Design: DWL Architects + Planners Inc., Phoenix

Civil Engineer/Landscape Architect: GRAEF/SCL Consulting, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Structural Engineer: Paragon Structural Design Inc., Phoenix

MEP Engineer: Energy Systems Design Inc., Scottsdale, Ariz.

Interior Design: Evolution Design Inc., Tempe, Ariz.

Photovoltaics: Ameresco Solar LLC, Tempe, Ariz.

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