Woodstock Library designs from the classroom


(Photo by Dion Ogust)

Some of Albany’s Tech Valley High School students shared their ideas for making greener Woodstock Library, as trustees began to solicit proposals from architects for an expanded facility.

Trustee David Lewis had his Environmental Science students at the Albany school to Woodstock Town Hall to present their ideas that ranged from heat-absorbing building materials to harnessing natural light. Students had toured the ZEN (Zero-Energy Nanotechnology) Building at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute and many incorporated the structure’s features into their proposed library designs.

At 360,000 square feet, the ZEN Building is touted as the largest net-zero mixed use building in the United States. Net-zero means a building has the capability of generating enough energy to offset the amount that is consumed. Elevators in the building use regenerative braking to generate electricity, similar to technology used in hybrid automobiles. The building also harnesses heat from computer server rooms that would otherwise be wasted.


The class was divided into teams and each developed their own plans for reducing the library’s carbon footprint and included 3D models to demonstrate their concept. All the students are 10th-graders at the school, which is focused on project-based learning and collaboration instead of a typical classroom setting, giving real-life applications to their lessons. All students graduate with Regents diplomas.

“Really, the idea was to get the juices flowing and get ideas for the library,” Lewis said.

The models used the existing building footprint, which contains about 7,000 square feet. To accommodate the recommended space of up to 15,000 square feet, most teams opted for a two-story building.

Some proposals included a rather large opening in the roof to allow natural light to filter into the rooms below, reducing the need for artificial lighting and providing some heat during daylight hours. A large amount of sunlight in the summer can generate unwanted heat, leading to higher energy bills from air conditioning, so one of the plans incorporated state-of-the-art windows that change the tint level in response to input from sensors.

Another plan called for a semi-curved roof surface made to accommodate a large number of solar panels, while yet another plan included a semi-permeable roof to accommodate a garden.

Local experts volunteered to review the students’ plans, which will be forwarded along with their input as recommendations the trustees can consider during the building’s design. “Most people just hear ‘tear down the library,’” Lewis said. “We’re here to present some other ideas.”

Offering assistance were Mary Phillips-Burke, former Woodstock Environmental Commission chair who helped with the town’s carbon-neutral project; Sean Ritchey, former library Facilities Task Force member and founder of Threshold Builders, a passive house design-build firm; Hugo Jule-Quintanilla, solar energy expert and Marty Nystrom, architect and former Facilities Task Force member.

Library sends request for proposals

Recently, library officials sent a letter to 42 architectural firms in the area informing them of the upcoming Request For Proposals (RFP) and asked them to respond by May 11 if they were interested. Fifteen responded by the deadline according to library board President Dorothea Marcus. Those firms got first dibs and the RFP will be posted on the library website, woodstock.org, and in architectural trade publications.

Proposals are due by June 12 and trustees will select three finalists on June 22 who will each be given a $5000 honorarium to present concept sketches, a preliminary site plan and scale model in August. Trustees will hire a firm shortly thereafter.

The overall cost goal is $5 million and trustees plan a large fundraising campaign to avoid the need to borrow the money through a bond issue. Provisos include preservation of the front lawn and the 1812 ell that currently houses staff offices.