First things first: Library Week has turned out to be a little more difficult than I had thought. But there are advantages to being the boss. I hereby declare that Library Week is now Library Fortnight.

So we have another week. Keep sending in your suggestions on what I should look into and where I might find it.

Now, back to Library Fortnight.

In late 2005, the last time the city produced an estimate of how much it would cost to build a new main library, library boosters announced that they had mitigated some of the increased cost of construction materials with “value engineering.” For example, they’d come up with a new kind of concrete that would save them $1.7 million.

Its name? Swisscrete, we here at the headquarters joked.

I know, we’re clever.

It touched on a bigger issue though. There’s a feeling that library boosters just want to get the thing built no matter what. The last evaluation in 2005, for example, revealed that planners had decided to save money by not completing the sixth and seventh floors of the building. They have also flirted with the idea of deferring construction of the auditorium — one of the components necessary to get the full effect of the other purpose for the library: to create a community gathering place.

So I asked Darren Greenhalgh, the city engineer formerly in charge of the library project, if there were still other savings opportunities. They wouldn’t decide to leave out bookshelves or anything, would they? Are we going to see any other changes to mitigate sticker shock on this thing?

“There’s always choices that could be made. I would not expect to find million dollar items anymore,” Greenhalgh said. “We will always look for things to change that may lower the cost of the facility without taking away from the usability or longevity of it.”

Ron Rudolph, the library general contractor from Turner Construction, had some more specific thoughts.

He said they could still change the quality of glass they use (there are 105,000 square feet of aluminum and glass windows going into the building).

“Every element of the building could be looked at again for value engineering alternatives without affecting the quality of the building,” Rudolph said.

But this begs the question: If it’s cheaper and it doesn’t lower the quality of the building, why wouldn’t you just do it this way anyways?

Rudolph dropped another idea he said would probably not be that welcome.

The city could decide to make the building less “green.” Right now, the plans for the new library are rated a Silver by LEED standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council. That means, it will be built like this building.

In an email after we talked, Rudolph wrote me this:

This sometimes adds 1-3 % of additional initial costs to a building but is typically paid back within 5 years, or sooner and greatly reduces the future utility and maintenance costs for maintaining and managing the building.

After I nail down the costs of concrete, which I think will be a great indicator of the inflation of the cost of the new main library plans, I’ll be done with that phase of Library Fortnight.


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