Elemental Architecture

Elemental Architecture

New York, NY


South Jamaica Branch Library

The South Jamaica Branch Library in Queens, NY, was the first building designed and constructed under the New York City High Performance Building Guidelines. The 2-story, 13,800 square-foot facility employs both passive and active features to reduce its energy requirements. The building is an integrated design in which its shell and each of its systems operate together to achieve enhanced conditions for the users; while minimizing the demands made on the natural environment for energy and other resources, both for building construction and operation. The interior qualities – light, temperature, air quality, spatial richness and variety – result from the dynamic interactions between the building and the natural environment. The exterior form is a direct translation of the building’s program and larger environmental considerations. The library reduces the embodied energy and embodied pollution through the use of low energy and recycled materials and provides enhanced indoor environmental quality through the use of chemically and physically stable materials and special filtration systems. The saw-tooth shape of its roof not only introduces sunlight into the main reading room, but also promotes hot air stratification, concentrating at the peaks. The building has two return/exhaust air systems; one collecting air at the peaks and one collecting air near the floor.  In the winter, the hot air from the peaks is recirculated throughout the building, its heat being stored in the slabs and masonry walls.  Exhaust air is taken from the cooler air near the floor.  In the summer, the hot air from the peaks is exhausted and the cooler air is recirculated.    The deep roof profile required by the solar collection strategy suggested the use of efficient, light long-span trusses, reducing the amount of material in the roof and columns.  It also produced a column-free main floor that can be easily adapted to changing program needs. The building established goals to consume significantly less energy than that allowed by the NYS Energy Code: 48% less for lighting; 62% less for heating; and 34% less for cooling. Actual meter readings after two years of operation demonstrate that the building has out-performed these goals: by 30% for heating and 50% for electrical (lighting & cooling). The library received the Earth Day Top Ten Award from the American Institute of Architects for sustainable design in the year 2000

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Status: Built
Location: Queens, United States


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