Michael Bunker blows cellulose insulation into wall cavities. Photo: Alan LaVallee
Michael Bunker blows cellulose insulation into wall cavities. Photo: Alan LaVallee
In November 2011, Rockland Public Library was one of 262 libraries, out of 7,513 rated in the U.S., identified as a Star library by the Library Journal. However, the physical facility - a 1903 9,000-sq.-ft. post-and-beam building with barrel ceilings, built as one of 1,600 Carnegie libraries constructed in the U.S., plus a new wing added in 2001 - was less than a star in the energy-efficiency department.

"The library used more energy than any other building in city government and more than several departments combined," said Larry Pritchett, who serves on Rockland's City Council and chairs the city's Energy Committee. And, according to library director Amy Levine, it was so cold in the original section that staff members had to use a space heater under the reference desk, while the children's room was chilly in winter and often very, very warm in summer.

Thanks to an energy-efficiency makeover from Rockland's Evergreen Home Performance, which was completed last week, the library will be comfortable in all seasons. Final energy analysis demonstrated that the insulation and air sealing project, which took six weeks and more than 1,000 man-hours, has reduced the library's draftiness by 50% - two-and-a-half times the targeted reduction.

According to Evergreen's Home Performance president, Richard Burbank, "It is realistic to anticipate that the new insulation and air sealing, more efficient lighting and retooled HVAC system could cut that $58,000-per-year energy bill in half." Evergreen Home Performance engineered a comprehensive improvement project based on the resultsof two auditing sessions, including infrared analysis, blower-door testing and computer modeling of the library's energy use. The assessments revealed that the original 1903 wing of the library was almost completely uninsulated, and that even the 2001 addition lacked insulation in several crucial areas.

Evergreen's crew created an even thermal barrier from below ground level up through the walls and over the top of the barrel ceilings. The new insulation includes fire barrier-protected spray-foam around the top of the foundation, highly mold- and moisture-resistant mineral wool in the wall cavities and dense-packed cellulose in the numerous attics - all done with few disruptions to library operations. Only the lower level, including the Historical Society offices, had to be closed for a week, while on the main level only small sections were closed at any given time.