The public library of Cacica in Suceava County, Romania, may not look like a very ambitious building. And yet this modest wood and brick structure is at the centre of some very big plans.
The ecoBiblioteca project, developed by the Romania Green Building Council, aims to transform a typical library in a small community into a state-of-the-art facility and an exemplary sustainable building, an inspiration for more than 1500 libraries across the country and for the Romanian construction industry.
WSP is the engineering consultant on the project, and has been working with the 5000-strong local community to identify the problems in the existing building and the most effective solution. “It's much harder to improve an existing building than build a sustainable building from scratch,” says Cristina Gruschevici, an MEP Engineer with WSP in Bucharest. “Before, the library was not at all sustainable, and it needed a lot of refurbishment.”
The existing building was poorly insulated with no hot or cold running water, heated by three wood-burning stoves in each room and supplied with water by an adjacent well. Away from the windows, the rooms were very dark even on the sunniest days. The roof was found to be structurally unsound, and there was asbestos in the roof tiles. But when the refurbishment is complete this summer, it is intended the refurbished building should exceed the guidelines of LEED Platinum and BREEAM Outstanding, providing bright, comfortable, flexible spaces that welcome both local people and tourists exploring the area. Cristina estimates that this much higher quality facility will use 35-40% less energy than comparable buildings.
The existing, dark and in-flexible interior has been opened out into a multi-purpose library and event space with extra daylight introduced via sun-pipes. The exterior of the building will receive 200mm of sheep’s wool insulation and a new ventilated wooden façade in harmony with the local traditional architectural style.
Heating is to be provided by a wood-burning biomass boiler in keeping with the local availability of wood as a fuel but will now be delivered by an underfloor heating system for more efficiency and flexibility.
Hot water will be provided by roof mounted solar panels, backed up by the biomass system. All lighting will be via natural daylight and LEDs, significantly reducing the electrical load and cooling requirements. Low energy laptops will be used throughout the facility and the reduced cooling load will be met by a natural ventilation system and night purging utilising the thermal mass of the original masonry structure. Rainwater will be collected on-site and used for irrigation and toilet flushing.
For the WSP team, it's exciting to be on such a pioneering project, though being the ones breaking new ground has presented difficulties. “We are trying to use sustainable, green systems that had never been used before in Romania, so that was one of the biggest challenges,” says Cristina.
But one of the best things about the project has been the enthusiasm of the local community. “The local authority has been very helpful, and is very open-minded to what we're doing. They're hoping that it will attract a lot more tourists to the area – it's unique in Romania, so we hope people will want to visit.”
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