Public Building Commission Wins Award for River-Friendly Albany Park Branch Library Project

Friends of the Chicago River Singles Project out for Contributions to the Environment and River

Molly Sullivan, Public Building Commission, (312) 744-9277

The Public Building Commission (PBC) has been awarded the Friends of the Chicago River Green Ribbon Award for the Albany Park Branch Library, a project that helps to contribute to the continuing improvement of the river, and the surrounding environment.

The library, at 3401 West Foster Avenue, in the North Park community on Chicago’s Northwest Side, was one of four projects that were given awards in a field of numerous river-friendly award submissions, according to Friends of the Chicago River. The organization noted that the winning projects embody the principles put forth in Chicago River Blue, which acknowledge the work of developers, designers, municipalities, and others for their creative approach to river sensitive design and implementation.

The organization noted that the winning projects embody the principles put forth in its Chicago River Blue initiative, which acknowledges the work of developers, designers, municipalities, and others for their creative approach to river sensitive design and implementation.
“We are pleased to accept this award because it recognizes the PBC’s strong commitment to sustainable development, and building modern and environmentally friendly facilities that offer benefits to our communities on many levels,” said Erin Lavin Cabonargi, Executive Director of the PBC.

“We are excited that our partners at Public Building Commission are receiving this award for the Albany Park Library project,” said Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon. “We continually work with PBC to strengthen communities around Chicago and this honor is well deserved.”

The PBC developed the branch library on behalf of Chicago Public Library Albany Park and created a community anchor that is designed in alignment with the City of Chicago sustainability goals.  The building will meet LEED Gold certification and help achieve the goals of Sustainable Chicago 2015 and the Chicago Climate Action Plan, which include reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions and energy and water use while improving Chicago quality of life.

Sustainable design strategies on the project include a 50% green roof, permeable pavers and a rainwater capture system which serves to irrigate the library’s landscaping, conserve drinking water, support rainwater infiltration and restore the water table and reduce sewer loads. The project site is located just a few blocks from the North Branch of the Chicago River in a neighborhood that has long embraced the river as an integral part of the community and which has worked to enhance the river through various civic and environmental efforts.

Outdoors, the reading garden has private as well as group ‘reading time’ space. Layered seasonal plantings, paving bricks, and sitting ‘stones’ are viewable from the interior reading room through the use of floor to ceiling windows that also provide the interior space with abundant natural light. The reading garden and the landscaping around the library feature native and adaptive plant species which require less water. The 2-level flat roof features 7,000 square feet of extensive green roof and a 4,000 square foot roof that captures rain water, which is stored below grade in over 6,000 gallon tanks for the irrigation of the plantings both on the roof and in the reading garden.

The Albany Park Branch serves as a model for other branches system-wide with its specially designed interactive space for children from newborn to age five. The design for the children’s area was guided by the program concepts “read, write, sing, talk, play”. The space is scaled down through the use of suspended ceiling planes. Colorful and comfortable furnishings, full wall writing surfaces, low book bins, window seats, and an in-wall talk tube make the space ideal for younger patrons.

The branch is also among the first neighborhood libraries with a 1,200 square-foot YOUmedia digital learning center for teens; the branch also offers an extensive Korean language collection, serving the needs of the area’s Korean-American community.

The overall design provides a friendlier place for patrons to work, including ample space for collaboration, better access to computers and printers and state of the art digital services like a 3D printer and Cyber Navigators, a program which provides computer help from a technology tutor with classes and one-on-one sessions. It also features a self-checkout counter that helps streamline the checkout process during busy times. There are areas for small group and large community gatherings, which allows the library to serve as a community hub and anchor.

The goal for the development of new branch libraries for Chicago is to design and create welcoming and flexible spaces that provide access to 21st century library services for residents of all ages while responding to the current and evolving needs of patrons

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