Park Library - San Francisco | U.S. Green Building Council
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LEED ID+C: Commercial Interiors v2 - LEED 2.0

Park Library - San Francisco

1833 Page Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States

LEED Gold 2011

* This profile has been peer-reviewed by a USGBC-selected team of technical experts.


Goals and motivations




Lessons learned


The below stakeholder perspectives address the following LEED credits:

MRc2.1, MRc2.2, MRc7, EQc3.2, EQc4.4, EAp1, EAc2



Goals and motivations

What were the top overarching goals and objectives?

Mark Schatz

Pincipal Architect, Field Paoli Architects

The clients had established a goal of attaining LEED Silver certification and we wanted to take that challenge a step further and strive for LEED Gold while keeping the project on schedule and within budget. A key objective was to use these branch libraries as models for the community to show that it was possible to improve sustainability in important historic structures without compromising their integrity. We were also very concerned with long-term energy and water savings, as well as the quality of light, ventilation, and air for library staff and patrons.

Improving indoor lighting was one of our most important and significant goals. We looked to the original designs of the building, which incorporated features like direct/indirect lighting with a light-colored ceiling, abundant natural light with effective shading to reduce glare, and task lighting at book stacks and tables. All of these had been compromised or abandoned over the years, and were re-implemented with new energy-saving lamps and controls in the new designs. We felt it was important to return all of the original operable windows to functional condition.

Photo by Mark Schatz

Natural daylighting is integrated throughout the space, including in the children's section and seating.

Wherever possible, we strove to retain and restore existing perimeter shelving, and even furnishings. The biggest challenge with the tables at Park Branch was adapting them to make them accessible without losing their structural or aesthetic integrity.


What were the motivations to pursue LEED certification and how did they influence the project?

  • Design Innovation
  • Organizational Priority
  • Policy/Code Requirement

Chapter 7 of the San Francisco Environmental Code requires all municipal building projects be designed and built to a minimum of LEED Silver. The design team adopted this as one of its priorities, but established the goal to pursue LEED Gold certification.

The reason recognition was a motivation was that, by doing this on highly visible public projects, we hoped that it would encourage other businesses and private individuals to do likewise for the betterment of the entire community. Educational signage and articles posted on the city's library website and in other branch libraries serve to teach patrons about approaches to sustainable design so they can learn from these examples.

The City of San Francisco has also been at the forefront in waste reduction and avoidance. This and other library projects were terrific opportunities to join in those efforts. The City was one of the first to implement a mandatory composting policy. We established a goal of 95% diversion of construction debris from landfill and were pleased that the contractor was able to exceed that. An ongoing program of recycling and composting was also implemented.

The goal of indoor comfort for patrons and staff was one of the other key aspects of our approach to becoming LEED-certified, and great efforts were made to improve the quality of both natural and artificial lighting. The windows were all repaired or replaced to ensure ease of operability to promote the use of natural ventilation, the best approach in San Francisco's temperate climate.




What were the most notable strategies used to earn LEED credits?

Andey Nunes

Project Curator - Construction, CuroGaia Consulting

Associated credits MRc2.1, MRc2.2

San Francisco's Construction and Demolition ordinance mandates a minimum of 65% waste diversion, so extensive materials recycling was a no-cost opportunity. San Francisco also has a mandatory composting and recycling ordinance for all commercial facilities that uses a three-bin system: green for compostable organics, blue for recyclables, and black for waste.

Photo by Andey Nunes

Lighting, flooring, and old case work were removed from the building. This image, taken at the beginning of perimeter and window restoration, illustrates IAQ housekeeping measures including covering of floor and wall ventilation, and avoidance of materials storage in work areas.

A notable strategy was implementing a Construction Materials Recovery Plan to achieve MR Credits 2.1 and 2.2, as well as an Innovation in Design credit for exemplary performance in construction waste management. The intention of utilizing a Materials Recovery Plan as opposed to a Waste Management Plan was to shift material handling practices from processes that produce wastes to processes that produce viable recovered material resources. This shift translated into changes in the demolition schedule and task descriptions toward deconstruction practices.

Andey discusses construction waste and materials handling on the project.

Interested in hearing more? This clip was taken from USGBC's "Constructing LEED" webinar series. Learn about this webinar series.

Laborers assessed materials to be removed and sorted, and adapted practices that facilitated materials sorting in tandem with removal from the building structure. All crew members were empowered to coach others in sorting practices and were encouraged to pose questions to the procedures and make field adjustments to enhance the sorting and recovery process.

On-site separated materials were transported to registered facilities and recyclers identified at the beginning of the project, and were calculated at 100% diversion. The service provider gave volume-to-weight conversion information for the three-bin system. Contents of the bins were monitored on a weekly basis and cross-contamination was corrected before curbside pick-up. This process informed training and re-training sessions on use of the three-bin system throughout the project.

Our lessons learned evaluation concluded that best practices in achieving maximum diversion rates for construction and demolition begins with shifting the perceptions of what "waste" is. The end result of the diversion efforts were analyzed for additional greenhouse gas emissions reduction based on the EPA WARM calculator. The project realized an additional 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the baseline case of the 65% diversion ordinance by achieving the 98% diversion rate. This translates into a significant synergy between San Francisco's zero-waste and climate policy goals for municipal projects.


What cutting-edge strategies or processes were implemented?

Andey Nunes

Project Curator - Construction, CuroGaia Consulting

An innovative aspect of this project was the LEED consultant's approach in coaching and training the construction team on LEED processes, which proved successful in supporting an inexperienced team to achieve commendable LEED performance. The consultant established plans and documentation systems for the project, but delegated implementation to the contractors while providing performance coaching, process auditing, and online documentation services on a time and materials basis. This resulted in significant savings for the general contractor in consultant fees, while creating a project-specific LEED training and educational opportunity for the contractors' management teams.

Andey describes how contractor and crew training was handled on this project

Interested in hearing more? This clip was taken from USGBC's "Constructing LEED" webinar series. Learn about this webinar series.

A training schedule was deployed that coordinated a pre-task meeting with crew start dates and included LEED orientation for subcontractor crew leaders. LEED orientation included specific instructions for LEED processes, as well as the use of "materials recovery" versus "waste" language and integration of indoor air quality measures into job site safety and housekeeping. This generated crew leader buy-in of efforts to shift perspectives of the conventional methods toward sustainable practices. Immediately following the typical pre-task LEED orientation, subcontractor crew leaders were asked to round up their crews into huddles and deliver the LEED orientation information while the LEED consultant observed. Clarifications and Q&A followed the crew trainings, allowing the subcontractors to step into a green building leadership role in a supportive learning environment. This process also allowed subcontractors to tailor the LEED processes to their trade and scope of work. During crew training sessions, emphasis was placed on embracing sustainable building practices as a way to become more competitive for future green building projects.

During coaching sessions, LEED processes were introduced as holistic processes and interactions between credits and different construction tasks were highlighted. For example, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) management tasks affected up to seven LEED credits on the project and daily construction tasks. IAQ tasks were folded into job site housekeeping and safety practices, as well as materials specifications. Communication of IAQ inspection tasks linked the specific IAQ protective measures to not only achieving the intent of the LEED credits and the goals of the project, but also to the benefits of worker and occupant safety. Workers were encouraged to engage in open dialogue about their concerns of the trade-offs of transitioning away from conventional practices and materials and adopting the sustainable methods.

An unanticipated need developed through this process of training subcontractors. Several subcontractors who received training in the group of crew leaders delivered trainings to their teams in Spanish or Mandarin. This made direct observation of the training impossible without relying on translation of questions through the crew leaders. Based on this experience, I recommend that in addition to job site safety training and information, all LEED management plans be made available to accommodate non-English speakers on the job site, as needed.




How was the integrative process applied and what was the greatest benefit gained?

Robert Cooley

Project Team Administrator, Field Paoli Architects

Despite the fact that this was a traditional delivery method (or design-bid-build process), the integrative story started early. We had another in-house LEED professional who started working with the project manager on this project before I was assigned to work on it. They both met with the interior designer and mechanical engineer project manager at the site and went through the building, reviewing the LEED checklist to figure out what points they thought we could get at the time. This project started before the recession, so it went through some design phases, team member layoffs, and then sat for awhile as far as LEED documentation.

We had further difficulty in renovating the historic building (the oldest in the San Francisco library system) since we had to bring it up to speed with modern library facilities. That meant providing remote building mechanical controls, better Internet, self check-out stations, and fully-integrated book drop systems that also tie into today's digital world. What was really important was the historic casework and getting the details to work; there were a lot of wires and conduit to hide from public view. Later on, the city wanted this site to be a historic landmark. The precedent we followed was to use some of the existing detailing for inspiration, but we wanted to make it read and look a little more modern so people could tell what was historic and what was not. We wanted to respect the historic nature of the woodwork without it looking like part of the original building.

When the recession hit, I was assigned to the role of LEED project team administrator. When I started to review things, there were decisions already made that I had to respect, one of which was to retain the existing HVAC ductwork. The way things were set up, it meant we wouldn't get one to two LEED points, but it also meant doing things more sustainably. I was assigned to manage the materials and colors selections, as well as refining the construction details and permit set. We didn't do regional or recycled materials because we thought on such a small job it would be onerous on the contractor. Later, when I reviewed the LEED checklist and started the LEED design documentation, I saw an opportunity to get to LEED Gold. I also saw that this could be done by extending the contractor a little bit more without incurring any hard costs, making the project something the branch library and City could be proud of. I went through the LEED checklist and worked closely with the project manager to find points that still made sense; the architect team also helped with the specifications.

We made sure that we had all the specs in mind for the contractor and also did everything within the construction documentation so they could achieve the points needed. Before permitting and sending out the bid package, we included in the bid specs a requirement for the contractor to have prior LEED experience or hire someone who was a LEED professional. Not only did we make sure qualifications were met, we also had a pre-bid meeting and reviewed the LEED scorecard and requirements. The lowest bidder for this job was found to not be qualified, so the project was awarded to the next-lowest bidder. One of the last things we did was to document all of the design credits prior to that pre-bid meeting; that gave us a good idea of what points we would be able to meet during the design phase and how many points they would have to achieve in the construction phase. However, we did not get back the reviewer comments of the design credits until construction had already begun.

Looking back, it would have been better if we had more points locked down in the design phase before we went out to bid. That way, we could tell the contractor the exact number of points needed to get to our achievement of LEED Gold.




Aside from LEED certification, what do you consider key project successes?

Mark Schatz

Pincipal Architect, Field Paoli Architects

Key successes on this project included the outcomes of improved functionality and accessibility, and the sustainable building processes adopted during construction that supported general contractors and subcontractors in first-time LEED project participation.

Photo by David Wakely

The library’s interior features restored tables, perimeter shelving, and operable windows. New lighting, casework, and seating give it a fresh modern feel while retaining its heritage character.

LEED Gold certification was achieved by a crew of general contractors and subcontractors with minimal or no prior experience in LEED or green building. The general contractor hired a LEED consultant who focused on LEED process performance coaching, crew training, field verification, and LEED documentation auditing, while supporting contractors in day-to-day data collection and management. This approach allowed contractors to gain LEED project experience and develop green building leadership on their crews in a supportive learning environment.

Accessibility has been improved throughout, with new site ramps, doors, bathroom facilities, drinking fountains, signage, and more. The new and refurbished furnishings have been designed to maximize accessibility. To provide improved, accessible service to patrons of all ages, the interior designs and finishes are brighter and less cluttered with layouts made much more comfortable for staff and patrons. Seating has been increased, as have the number of both fixed and laptop computers, enhancing access to online and other digital materials. Teens enjoy a new designated area with special collections, assigned public access computers and fun seating. New automated self-checkout stations and designated shelving for reserved materials afford patrons a greater opportunity for self service.

Photo by David Wakely

The library’s Page Street entrance features ADA accessibility improvements and highlights restored exterior and historic elements of this 1909 structure.

All new work spaces have been provided for staff with ergonomic workstations and seating. The new workstations are simple, but with multi-adjustable ergonomic task chairs, adaptable work surfaces, and individual control for task lighting. Some also have the added feature of adjustable-height desktops so workers have the option of standing or sitting at different times. New outdoor and indoor book-drop slots leading directly to staff work areas were provided to ease operations and streamline staff areas. The community room enables the library to offer more programs and options for use by other neighborhood groups with state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment and after-hours access.


What were the most important long- and short-term value-add strategies and what returns on investment (ROI) have been experienced or anticipated?

Mark Palmer

Municipal Green Building Coordinator, City of San Francisco's Department of Environment

Associated credits EAp1, EAc2

San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) facilities management believes the commissioning process to be a high-value proposition for the Branch Library Improvement Program and to offer the highest return on investment (ROI) of any of the LEED credits. Commissioning, functional testing, and training for building engineers have saved valuable time and resources.

On average, non-commissioned, newly-opened branch libraries have taken 60 to 70 working hours for engineers to make proper adjustments and create comfortable operating conditions. Due to facilities engineering staff constraints, it can take months of operations to complete the average 60 to 70 working hours, simply due to scheduling and manpower challenges. Branch renovations that included LEED commissioning have had minimal or no engineering interventions or mechanical callbacks.

Facilities management resources in the city are stretched very thin and branch libraries don't have permanent on-site facilities staff. The facilities management workload is very affected by how the libraries are operating. The facilities director of SFPL, Roberto Lombardi, has reported that over the first nine months of operation of San Francisco's first branch library commissioned under LEED protocols, he didn't receive one callback or complaint from the staff or patrons. It's really made a huge difference in the way the building has been received by staff; everyone is very happy with temperature levels, indoor environmental quality, and ventilation rates, especially compared to past municipal buildings. In addition to reducing callbacks, this commissioning process has reduced change orders and sped the construction schedule itself. It's been a financial and environmental benefit to the city as the owner of these libraries. San Francisco requires both fundamental and enhanced commissioning on all municipal projects. The enhanced commissioning provides staff training and a systems manual that outlines set points and sequence of operations, and better enables periodic recommissioning of building systems.

Nearly all issues resolved in non-LEED-commissioned branch libraries are issues that would likely have been discovered and corrected at the contractor's expense during the warranty period rather than at the owner's expense after building occupancy. Thus, commissioning has made good business sense for mechanical contractors, as well as the City. From a City government operations perspective, the outcomes described from the commissioning process will become more and more valuable with increasing ROI as budgets and staff are further constrained.



Lessons Learned

What project challenges became important lessons learned?

Andey Nunes

Project Curator - Construction, CuroGaia Consulting

Associated credits EQc4.4, MRc7

Two major project challenges became important lessons learned. LEED MR Credit 7: Certified Wood was attempted, but not achieved. IEQ Credit 4.4: Low-emitting Materials, Composite Wood & Laminate Adhesives was challenging and required appeal, but was finally achieved.

MR Credit 7 required a minimum of 50% of new wood-based materials and products to be FSC-certified. The construction team had commendable success at using FSC-certified wood during the construction phase; the cost of FSC-certified new wood items was 83% of total wood costs. This met the project goal of using FSC-certified wood for a minimum of 50% of new wood for the projects. However, LEED for Commercial Interiors template calculations required inclusion of furniture purchases, which were not within the scope of the construction project specifications for the general contractor. Furniture purchased by the Friends of the Library for this project was specified FSC wood, but either did not meet the FSC criteria in the specs or was not properly documented. Furniture costs were more than double the amount for new wood used in the construction, causing the final FSC wood calculation to drop to 30% cost. Therefore, the team was unable to achieve this credit, despite considerable effort by the contractors.

Andey talks about the low emitting materials and construction procceses on indoor air quality.

Interested in hearing more? This clip was taken from USGBC's "Constructing LEED" webinar series. Learn about this webinar series.

Of all low-emitting materials credits, IEQ Credit 4.4 was most challenging for the construction team in terms of documentation. The California Environmental Protection Agency has an Air Resources Board standard, Airborne Toxic Control Measures, which regulates formaldehyde content in composite wood products. It was easy enough to specify no added-urea-formaldehyde (N-AUF) with vendors for wood and adhesive products, but this documentation process was challenging.

Our approach with the contractors was to set up the documentation systems, then coach and train their project managers in implementing LEED processes themselves. When they received documents from the wood vendor and checked the tags to confirm N-AUF content, inconsistencies in product designations and standards were sometimes confusing; designations included, "Meets ASTM standards," "Meets California Air Resource Board (CARB) standards," "UAF-free," and "N-AUF." When it came time for documentation, we had to go back and look at line items on vendor receipts. This also meant getting a statement from the vendor that defined all acronyms and confirmed equivalence to the ASTM standard.

In addition, with respect to both IEQ Credit 4.4 and IEQ Credit 4.1, there were challenges in documenting adhesives. Though the team collected all MSDS sheets, none of these explicitly noted that the materials contained no formaldehyde. This added a week or so of calling manufacturers to get the right person to write a letter for documentation purposes.

My recommendation for future teams approaching IEQ Credit 4.4 is to create a definition list at the beginning and talk to vendors who will provide all composite wood and agrifiber materials. Specify how to designate it on the tags or have them define how it will be designated on the tickets. This way, you can keep a list of definitions alongside vendor receipts. Additionally, when collecting MSDS sheets, if formaldehyde is not listed there or in vendor receipts, go back and get that information immediately from manufacturers so the team isn't scrambling at the last minute.

In the future, municipalities could also consider drafting a Master Materials Management & Purchasing Plan for building improvement programs, campuses, and multiple projects of similar scope. The Master Plan should align the city's long-term environmental goals - such as precautionary principal, environmentally-preferred purchasing, zero waste, toxics reduction, and greenhouse gas emissions reductions strategies - with project priorities and environmental goals, and should include preliminary budget figures. The Master Plan could be used to leverage manufacturers and vendors of niche markets, such as library furniture and building materials, to develop the supply chain resources needed to help project teams meet overall environmental goals.


What was a pivotal moment that impacted the project's direction?

Andey Nunes

Project Curator - Construction, CuroGaia Consulting

Associated credits EQc3.2

Meeting the requirements of IEQ Credit 3.2: Construction IAQ Management Plan, Before Occupancy, presented challenges. Because the building is naturally ventilated, a building flush-out was not feasible. A ventilation flush-out would have required temporary supplemental ventilation with humidity and temperature control to meet the credit specification; this meant requiring dehumidifiers and heaters, if necessary, along with fans to deliver the volume of air to the space within specification. The schedule for this activity coincided with winter conditions that made this cost-prohibitive and potentially physically-prohibitive.

Since a flush-out couldn't be conducted, the team chose to bring in an environmental testing company to perform the IAQ test option for this LEED credit. The decision process for investigating this compliance path began almost five months into the twelve-month project schedule. The project specifications did not list testing as an option for this credit, so it took several meetings to get approval to pursue this option.

Tests were performed after substantial completion of the project and before final furniture move-in. The success of the air quality testing option greatly depended on the general contractor's diligent work and the cooperation of all subcontractors during performance of daily tasks and weekly inspections. Additionally, the use of low-emitting materials throughout the project's duration was crucial because the decision to perform testing was made nearly nine months into the less-than-twelve-month schedule. In the end, the project was awarded this point and the case was made for other projects to follow this compliance path.


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Project details
8,060 sf
31 Oct 2011