The Whistler Public Library has received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification, the highest certification for sustainability from the Canada Green Building Council.
The library's passive solar design principles, it's geothermal heating and cooling system, its high efficiency baseboard heaters and compact fluorescent light bulbs were all recognized as exceptional components that set a standard for sustainable architecture.
"You basically get a plaque and you get to say that you've actually achieved what you said you were doing," said Ted Battiston, strategic energy emissions manager for the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
LEED is a third-party verification system for assessing a building's performance across a wide range of criteria. Points are awarded for each of these criteria and certifications are based on those points. It's an attempt by the Canada and US Green Building Councils to verify that a building truly is "green."
The application process is quite rigorous and involves providing a detailed paper trail of where products used in the buildings come from, how they meet the criteria, etc., so only a few organizations apply for the certification.
Battiston said the library has received several unrelated grants for energy performance - one from BC Hydro for $15,000 and another from the Union of B.C. Municipalities for between $25,000 and $30,000, but those are not specifically linked to the building's gold LEED certification.
The certification comes one year after it was reported that energy costs for the library were 35 per cent higher than they had been aiming for. Battiston said a number of changes have been made over the last year to bring that number down, but even if those changes had not been made, the library still would have qualified for the LEED gold certification.
"Not all the points from a LEED certification come from energy," he said. "There's also water efficiency, there's the materials they use in the construction, there's low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) finishings in the actual adhesives and paints, there's daylight strategies - a whole bunch of points.
"Energy's a big part of it but it's by no means the only point," he said.
Battiston said one reason for high energy costs the past two years is that the same geothermal heating and cooling system that helped them earn the certification has taken two years to get working properly. That process, he said, is very normal and is almost completed at the library.
The library is currently using 40 per cent less energy than the average as tested by the Model National Energy Code for Buildings, which gives a national model benchmark for all buildings to compare to. Battison thinks they can push that to more than 50 per cent.
"Part of the reason we're not there yet is because of our use during the Games," he said.
Annual energy costs are about $30,000 for natural gas use and electricity combined, compared to about $32,000 last year, taking into account the rise in gas prices. Battiston compared that to Millennium Place, which is roughly the same size, which runs on about $60,000 of energy per year.
Battiston said they'd like to be running at $27,000 per year for the library.
The library, which opened in January 2008 and is one of the green building technologies aligned with the priorities in Whistler2020, also won the 2010 Wood WORKS! BC Wood Design Architect Award.