The innovative design and construction of the new Church History Library make the facility more than just an attractive venue for accessing the archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This state-of-the-art building was designed and constructed to meet the high standards for certification as a “green” building through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, putting it on track to receive the prestigious Silver designation.
“We wanted a building that would preserve the records of the Church, that would be a great place for employees and missionaries to work and for patrons to use records, and that would be a credit to the Church and the community,” said Brent Thompson, director of Records Preservation for the Church History Department. “A more ‘green’ building helps in all four areas.”
LEED certification, first implemented in 1998 and sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council, is the nationally accepted standard for design, construction and operation of environmentally friendly buildings.
“The Church’s commitment to attaining LEED certification for the Church History Library is a reflection of their long-term vision, and it underscores the leadership role the Church plays on so many levels in the community,” said Jim Bradburn, director of Sustainable Services at The RMH Group, a sustainable engineering services firm in Denver. “The forward-looking design and focus on sustainability from the outset made achieving the high professional standards required for certification a fluid part of the process.”
To make the grade, “green” buildings must use less heat and electricity, have greater access to outside views by having windows close to where people work, be in close proximity to public transportation, and use products that are locally produced, that are recycled, or that give off fewer gasses that may affect people’s health.
“Improved lighting and indoor air quality allow customers to better use the records and be more comfortable while doing so,” Thompson said. “More natural light in work areas improves the job satisfaction for employees and missionaries. The community benefits from a well-designed building that looks good in the urban setting while having less impact on the environment.”
The building’s occupants will experience healthier surroundings because many of the materials used in its construction are low in volatile organic compounds, or VOC, explained Dessa Fountaine of Jacobsen Construction, the company building the Church History Library.
“The filters in the mechanical systems eliminate allergens,” Fountaine added. “The wood used comes from forests that are harvested wisely and are replanted. A center will be included in the building to collect paper, plastics and metal products to be recycled. The heating and cooling systems are efficient, thus eliminating waste. The landscaping designs and plumbing items will use less water, and the windows, blinds and insulation will preserve temperatures.”
In addition to the advantages for library employees and patrons, the records that will be housed there will benefit from the facility’s “green” design. The building filters the outside air so that substances like nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide are prevented from damaging the records.
The new building’s energy efficiency will also allow the Church History Department to maintain at a more sustainable cost the constant environment of 55 degrees Fahrenheit and 35 percent relative humidity necessary to preserve most records. Such efficiency has not been feasible at the archives’ present location in the Church Office Building.
“The space we currently occupy wasn’t designed as an archival storage space,” Thompson said. “It doesn’t have fire protection; it doesn’t have seismic protection; and it doesn’t have adequate temperature, humidity and air quality control. The new building will provide answers to these problems.”
Ultimately, the new library’s “green” design is just one aspect of the broader investment by the Church in its history — both in preservation and care of records as well as dissemination and access.
“[It] will rival the great libraries of the world with its facilities and collections,” said Elder Marlin K. Jensen, Church historian and recorder. “These documents are the crown jewels of Mormonism. The truthfulness of Mormonism is inextricably tied to its history, and it is in our best interest to preserve these records and make them available to those who wish to study the origins of this remarkable faith.”