The ongoing conflict between preservation and progress is being waged on college and university campuses across the country. When the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) resolved to build a new and more efficient library, it wanted to do so while keeping the traditional academic feel intact. This mix resulted in an environmentally responsible and technologically savvy learning center that will be a source of community pride for years to come. Lisa R. Darger, sustainability coordinator at UTC, spoke to gb&d about balancing the old and new.

Why was the timing right to build a new library?

Lisa Darger: The Lupton Library building is one of the most heavily used on campus, with close to 9,000 users per week during peak periods. In 2000, it was identified by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission that the library, which was built in 1974, was deficient by nearly 60,000 square feet. The project had actually been on the UTC Capital Project list since 1989, and we finally received the funding in 2007 and construction began in 2011.

In literature put out by the university, the vision for the library is said to be “stately, but awesome.” How do you accomplish that duality?

Darger: Part of it is bringing a more modern feel to the library environment. We included taller ceilings, meeting spaces, and more glass; it doesn’t have that older stodginess of a traditional library. A key component is focusing on people as the library centerpiece, rather than book storage. The easy-to-navigate layout is spatially designed to provide open, comfortable gathering spaces for group study and collaboration, quiet nooks and crannies for individual study and research, and window seating. There is also a small café that has a green roof, which will be another learning component since the green roof will be accessible to the students. We’ll be using it as a resource center with an emphasis on technology while at the same time having a solid book inventory. It will be a university center—not a social center but a learning center.

What were the lighting considerations you employed in the design?

Darger: The building has a relatively narrow footprint, and we maximized use of natural lighting, particularly in the common areas. Interior glass brings that light deeper into the building, supplemented with task lighting in work areas. There are also individual controls and occupancy sensors to reduce energy use.

How was the approach to energy influenced by electrical information, the Internet, educational technology, and being open 24 hours?

Darger: We have everything on a digital control system, so we can control different zones. The system can be controlled and set to reduce usage during evenings, weekends, and holidays. The occupancy sensors in the larger rooms are not only for lighting but for heating and cooling as well. Data ports and outlets also were strategically located to allow for flexibility in furniture and equipment arrangements.

What materials were used in construction?

Darger: It was important for recycled and reconstituted materials to be used. We really tried to maximize using the materials that came from local and regional sources. On the site they focused on using certified wood and rapidly renewable materials. There was also an effort to use low-emitting adhesives and sealants as well as low-emitting paints, coatings, and floor coverings.

Were there any special requirements for the delicate materials in the archives?

Darger: This was a question that came up. They wanted a big area for the library archives, and we were able to maximize the space while reducing the square footage that had to be climate-controlled. Certain special collections areas will have a separate, energy-efficient HVAC unit. The remainder of the building is on the university’s central plant, which has been outfitted with maximum efficiency boilers and chillers, resulting in more than 67 percent reductions in electricity and natural gas usage over the past decade.