Library Pursues Novel Approach to Energy Savings

In Downtown Los Angeles, the Central Library is getting a “cool” upgrade. The new “cool” roof being installed is one of the latest examples of how Los Angeles is reinventing itself using simple clean technology to save energy and money.

The frieze on the façade of the Los Angeles Central Library facing Flower Street depicts two horsemen passing the flame of knowledge. Deep inside the library, amidst books of wisdom, new knowledge is building an energy-efficient future.

Beginning on Monday, March 19th, work crews began installing about $3.2 million in energy-conserving retrofits. The goal is to reduce the library’s energy costs by 20 percent while generating construction jobs.

“The reductions make so much sense because over the long run, electricity costs are just going to go up and up and up,” said India Griffin, building construction maintenance superintendent for the city’s Department of General Services.

The roof of the Central Library has been targeted in part because it needs to be replaced. The roof leaks so badly that every time it rains, janitors are ready with buckets to protect the books and the building from further damage. Some sections of the library even have plastic sheets covering shelves.

This roof – a building engineer points out the site of the latest leak to be patched.

“The library really needs a new roof because we’ve been patching holes and leaks the last few years. It’s been falling into disrepair,” said Daniel Rodriguez of the city’s General Services Department.

The new roof will be a “cool roof.” It’s the latest example of how Los Angeles is reinventing itself using clean technology to cut pollution, employ advanced technologies and promote green jobs. Two U.S. Department of Energy programs fund the work: The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) and the Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds. Los Angeles received about $37 million in EECBG grants as part of President Obama’s economic stimulus package.

The work, which is expected to last through June, became apparent across the downtown financial district when a giant crane rolled into place on Fifth Street near Grand Avenue next week. The first phase of work will be to vacuum away 800,000 pounds of stones atop the existing library roof and replace them with thin-membrane “cool roof” material that reflects about 40 percent of sunlight to help cool the library. Phase two involves replacing cooling towers with new, more efficient models, further reducing energy costs. The final step will replace a series of air conditioning chillers deep inside the library.

The 1926 library is an early example of art deco architecture and a landmark in the downtown area, but it wasn’t built for energy efficiency. The new, cool roof and upgraded air conditioning equipment will help keep the interior cooler and reduce energy costs by about $177,000 annually, according to city estimates.

Atop the library, an iconic gold and blue mosaic pyramid gleams over downtown. At the apex of the pyramid, the light of learning gleams brightly, signaling the power of new knowledge. The pyramid will not be harmed or removed during construction.

For more information about cool roofs, please visit:

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