Houston Library Goes for Silver LEED Restoration

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Interior of Houston's Julia Ideson Library

Credit: Preservation Partners

In 1926, the Julia Ideson Library in Houston, Tex., was the only one of five planned Spanish revival style public buildings ever completed. When the Depression hit, the library was finished quickly. Now it's set to undergo a major LEED-certified restoration and expansion.

Made of brick and stucco with a tile roof, the library, collaboratively designed by architects Ralph Adams Crane and William Ward Watkin, stands out among the predominantly modern buildings in the city. The building served as the central library for the Houston Public Library system for 50 years. In the 1970s, a larger library, the Jesse H. Jones Library, was built next door, and the Julia Ideson Library was used for archival storage. Since then, not much has been done to update the library.

Green Scene icon"It's time that it needs to be refurbished. It's in a wonderful location downtown, but people don't even look at it. Most people wonder if it's still open," says Phoebe Tudor, the chair of the Julia Ideson Library Preservation Partners organization. "It's not in terrible disrepair, it has just not had much TLC."

The $38 million dollar project, of which the city has committed $8 million, will renovate the existing building, update the landscaping to include an outdoor reading room, and add a wing with state-of-the-art archival storage capabilities. "The original plans called for a wing on the back, but it was not built," Tudor adds, "probably because of budget restraints."

The project will also meet the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). "We are aiming at a LEED silver rating on the project," says Barry Moore, the Project Manager with the Gensler architectural firm. To meet these standards, the project aims to include an efficient air conditioning system, reduce the amount of water use in the building, buy green power from a power company, and use recycled and low-emitting materials during construction.

Construction will begin in this fall and is expected to be finished by the end of 2010. 

UPDATE, February 2010: Save America's Treasures in 2009 gave a grant of $300,000 to the project, now completed.

Read more about the National Trust for Historic Preservation and sustainability

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