Libraries Need to “Read Up” on Energy Efficiency

on May 27, 2014 at 2:00 PM

Inaugural Gala for The Cecilia Attias Foundation Hosted by Cecilia Attias

Here at WegoWise, we have the privilege of spending a LOT of time in energy data. Beyond the 20,000 multifamily buildings in our database, we have spent much of the last year adding non-residential buildings like offices, healthcare, education and goverment. This week we were digging into libraries, and decided we might as well share what we found.

So how much energy do libraries use? Here is a chart showing the source energy use intensity (source EUI) for the libraries of New York, San Francisco and Washington DC. The national median value is 246 kBtu per square foot per year. This is a “Source” Energy Use Intensity, meaning it reflects the total raw energy resource consumed by the building (and enables comparisons between buildings with different fuels and systems). Check this link for more info on Source EUI.

Library Energy Use Intensity

While a national average is interesting, it is always more fun to look at a distribution. Libraries are tricky because they have not been an area of focus in the past, so there has been less publicly available data than for building types like offices and retail. Fortunately, cities like New York, San Francisco and Washington DC have begun to disclose the energy use of their municipal buildings. By combing through their benchmarking reports and adjusting to ensure an “apples to apples” comparison, we assembled the dataset above showing source EUI for libraries in San Francisco, Washington DC and New York.

Note that all three of these cities are doing pretty well relative to the national average. But there is certainly room to improve, especially among the least efficient libraries on the right. Compared to an office, which likely has the same operating hours of a retail store, libraries use a lot of energy. Why might this be? Here are some speculative reasons why a library building is less efficient:

  • Infrastructure – in contrast to a retail or office setting, library buildings have not faced the pressure of a competitive real estate market. This may have led to aging infrastructure and inefficient equipment.
  • Budget – recent years have seen tight budgets at the municipal level, and this means fewer upgrade projects.
  • Operations – Libraries are typically smaller buildings and distributed throughout the city. As a result, operational resources are spread thin and may face challenges keeping the buildings running well.

Are there more reasons you can think of? Are there ways that libraries can improve energy efficiency? Email us ([email protected]) and share your thoughts.

by Kelly Smith – May 20, 2014

Kelly is the director of building analytics at WegoWise, a leading utility intelligence provider, where he creates analytical tools and energy efficiency products. Kelly started his career in plasma physics with a hope of solving the world’s energy problems through magnetic confinement fusion, and also has consulted for utilities and federal agencies and supported sustainability efforts at a Fortune 100 company.