Overlooking the many bright scholars to enter its bronze doors stands an architectural haven: UC Berkeley’s C.V. Starr East Asian Library. The building contains four floors dedicated to housing an invaluable collection of over 900,000 East Asian works. The building was designed with a unique goal to utilize building materials that not only add visual interest, but also help preserve the irreplaceable documents, art, and books.
UC Berkeley, already a recognized world leader for educational excellence, also leads the country in environmental stewardship for campus design. Since 2002 the campus has aimed to make its buildings as “green” and environmentally conservative as possible. The institution set a lofty goal of reaching a minimum LEED Silver Certification level on all new construction projects, which requires a building to gain between 33 and 38 LEED points. In 2004, Berkeley further refined its environmental initiative by creating the 2020 Long Range Development Plan which serves to minimize Berkeley’s environmental impact while supporting campus growth and maintaining an environment conducive to academic excellence. The C.V. Starr East Asian Library was the first project proposed under the plan.
•Renewable bamboo flooring
•Motion-sensor operated lights
•Optimized daylight using skylights
•Exterior screens to filter 50% of direct sunlight
•Reclaimed storm water basin
•Polished concrete flooring
With such an overwhelmingly “green” model already set, the design team of the C.V. Starr East Asian Library, award winning firm Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (TWBTA), had their work cut out for them. During the planning stage of the construction, careful consideration was used to select specific materials that would conserve energy, minimize VOC’s (volatile organic chemicals), and encourage recycling, while still providing aesthetic appeal and protect the work held within. Dramatic patterned glass windows were chosen to provide filtered daylight and interior lighting. Native plants were selected for landscaping and are nourished from reclaimed water captured from a stone basin.
In the heart of the 68,000 square foot building lays over 25,000 square feet of polished concrete. The use of polished concrete maintains the traditional exposed concrete aesthetic that is used throughout the campus and provides a sustainable flooring alternative. “Using polished concrete on the floor eliminates the need for additional coating or covering for the floor,” explains Erin O’Brien, Senior Sales Consultant for Perfect Polish. “It will reduce the impact on the environment that harvesting and transporting would require to bring in carpet or tile, making it an intrinsically green flooring option.”
The properties within concrete allow the temperature in a building to remain consistent, without consuming excessive energy for cooling and heating. That means that utilizing exposed concrete also helps to maintain the cool temperatures required to preserve the 900,000 volumes of East Asian tomes. To further enhance the thermal mass properties of the concrete, the architects used passive solar design principals and installed exterior screens to filter more than half of the sunlight from streaming directly into the building.
Constructing the concrete floor did not come without its challenges, but Perfect Polish, one of the largest polishing firms in the nation, sent out experienced crews capable of handling such challenges. The concrete floor of the library had special dips poured into the concrete to accommodate moveable bookcases. This required the Perfect Polish crew to hand tool all of the linear footage in that area. With numerous bookcases, metal structures, and other essential fixtures, the floor plan was not wide open, and this slowed production slightly.
“Our crews are IPCI Certified and highly trained to be able to adapt to any construction environment,” elaborates O’Brien. “Our goal was to provide the sustainable flooring vision of the architect, regardless of what we encountered.”