Berkeley Public Library Leads the Way With LEED Gold Certification for newly opened South Branch

July 10, 2014
Interior of South Branch. The room is daylight filled and cooled by clerestory windows and ceiling fans
Interior of South Branch. Photograph by David Wakely ©2013

Contact: Donna Corbeil
Library Director
Berkeley Public Library

Berkeley Public Library Leads the Way
With LEED Gold Certification for newly opened South Branch

Berkeley, July 10, 2014—The Berkeley Public Library South Branch and Tool Lending Library, that opened to great acclaim on May 11, 2013, has achieved LEED Gold certification for new construction. Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class sustainable building strategies and practices.

San Francisco architectural firm, Field Paoli, who designed the new South Branch Library, received official notification on June 20, 2014. Describing the design concept, Principal Avery Moor said, “We literally raised the roof, creating a 20-foot high central browsing room that brings daylight into the three reading rooms and shared cool air through operable clerestory windows and ceiling fans.”

To achieve LEED certification, building projects must satisfy environmental prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels: Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum. As part of its Climate Action Plan, the City of Berkeley requires all major remodels or new construction of City buildings to meet LEED Silver certification. The recently renovated Claremont Branch and North Branch Public Libraries each achieved LEED Silver.

For South Branch, the Berkeley Library, and Field Paoli decided to go further. It was a team effort,” says Neal de Snoo, Energy Program Office for the City’s Office of Energy and Sustainable Development. “In this project the Library demonstrated a major commitment to achieving the City’s climate action goal.”

Among the many sustainable building features are radiant floor heating, operable windows for most ventilation, abundant daylighting, energy efficient light fixtures and lighting controls, and water and energy efficient plumbing fixtures. Millwork incorporates sustainably harvested maple and reclaimed Monterey cypress woods. On the roof, photovoltaic panels offset 9.7% of the building's energy cost.  And around the site, permeable paving and bioswales are integrated with drought tolerant and regional landscaping to save water and reduce runoff.

In the midst of an economic recession and a national wave of libraries and other public services being reduced and shuttered, the Berkeley Public Library, the Berkeley Public Library Foundation, and Friends of the Berkeley Public Library bucked the trend with a successful campaign to voters and donors to expand and improve public facilities and benefits. “Beautiful public spaces and free, accessible methods for obtaining knowledge and exposure to arts, culture and literature reflect our values. We are thrilled to have sustainable ‘green’ library buildings designed to serve Berkeley for generations,” says Director of Library Services Donna Corbeil.

The Berkeley voters passed measure FF, a $26 million bond measure for the Branch Library Improvement Program, overwhelmingly in November 2008. Construction costs for the South Branch totaled $5 million. The Library expanded from 5,400 sq. ft. in the old building to 8,700 sq. ft. in the new, including a larger community meeting room with tall windows facing the street. Library spaces are warm and welcoming, and fully accessible, with more seating, technology and media choices.

The much-loved Tool Lending Library returned to a bigger space with more storage for their large tool collection and workshop space for staff to maintain and repair tools.

The General Contractor, Gonsalves & Stronck Construction Company of San Carlos, also achieved LEED points for diverting over 80% of construction waste from landfill, tracking material costs for recycled content, and making sure thresholds for low-emitting materials were not exceeded. They also refinished and reused hemlock ceiling boards from the original library. Kitchell contractors, construction manager for all four branch libraries, provided enhanced commissioning for the project.

The process did not stop with the construction and the opening of the Branch. The library committed to two years of purchased green power for the Branch. Green cleaning materials, recycling, and landscape maintenance without use of harmful chemicals, are part of the Berkeley Public Library's sustainable practices. To view real-time data on the South Branch Library’s CO2 impact and solar power yield go to

Branch visitors will find several wall plaques, sporting a raised green leaf, sprinkled around the Library. These signs describe the “green” features located throughout the Library. For more information on the Library’s sustainable spaces go to

The South Branch Library is located at 1901 Russell Street, Berkeley CA 94703, and is open: Monday, 10:00 am-6:00 pm, Tuesday and Wednesday, 10:00 am-8:00 pm, Thursday 12 noon-8:00 pm, and Friday and Saturday, 10:00 am-6:00 pm. The Tool Lending Library is also located at 1901 Russell Street, with parking and entrance on Martin Luther King, Jr, Way. It is open: Tuesday and Wednesday, 10:00 am-8:00 pm, Thursday 12 noon-8:00 pm, Friday, 1:00 am-6:00 pm and Saturday, 10:00 am-6:00 pm. South Branch and the Tool Lending Library are wheelchair accessible. For more information, visit the library’s website:

The LEED program was created and is maintained by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) which is an organization committed to a prosperous, healthy and sustainable future through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings awards designs.

Image Descriptions
Exterior of South Branch Library of  drought-resistant plantings use less water while bioswales absorb and prevent it from reaching the Bay. Photograph by David Wakely ©2013
Interior of South Branch Library. The tall browsing room is filled with daylight and cooled by operable clerestory windows and ceiling fans. The energy efficient LED fixtures are sensitive to the ambient light.  Window shades also help control temperature and light. Photograph by David Wakely ©2013