40 / BUILDING DIALOGUE / March 2023 ELEMENTS Sustainable Design Sustainable, Resilient Design: Navigating Extreme Conditions T he Rocky Mountain region fea- tures some of the most remark- able landscapes in the nation. However, with unique territory comes distinct challenges for design teams that operate within them. How does a project come to fruition when conditions are ex- treme – such as temperatures below -20 degrees Fahrenheit, wind speeds up to 60 mph, and an elevation over 7,700 feet? Keeping clients’ energy savings prior- ities for their communities top of mind helps guide project partners toward achieving a design concept amid even the most challenging elements and en- vironments. Our team identified which sustainable design factors make the most sense for projects that will be required to face the elements, navigated the complexities of a remote project site while minimizing negative impacts to our planet and har- nessed the value in reinventing an ap- proach to a challenging project through innovative and creative solutions. The city of Gunnison – referred to as “Gunni” by locals – is a tightknit commu- nity. Located in a scenic mountain valley in the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 7,700 feet, Gunnison is known for its natural beauty, but also winter’s frigid air, which settles in the Gunnison Valley, making it one of the coldest places in the United States. With the extremely cold air and drastic fluctuations in the tem- perature, there are requirements around specialized build- ing design. When Gunnison County Libraries expressed interest in re- placing its existing library with a new sustainable building providing flexible and functional community space, the goal was especially formidable considering the climate. Gunnison County has been a nationwide leader in pub- lic-sector commitment to sustainable design practices and operational performance. From the 2009 Gunnison County Energy Action Plan to the Gunni Cares 2030 plan adopted in 2022, the county has demonstrated this resolve through measurable goals. Residents came together to provide input into the plan- ning and design of the new library through events, activi- ties, workshops and presentations. In alliance with this commitment from the community, Gunnison County and the Gunnison County Library District set a highly ambitious Energy Use Intensity goal of 30 or lower for the new Gun- nison Library. Sustainable design solutions were critical for the Gunnison County public library to achieve these energy saving objectives. n Reimagining the Gunnison County public library. The Gunnison Library design was executed by a well-rounded team of architects, lighting and electrical design experts, mechanical engineers, sustainability consultants and land- scape designers. The 15,000-square-foot public facility needed to stand up to the harsh and variable weather conditions experienced in Gunnison. Winter ambient temperatures in the Gunnison Valley reaching negative 40 degrees, sometimes with heavy snow, required careful design of the roof systems to handle snow and ice. To achieve the EUI goal in the face of extreme climate and temperature challenges, the design teams and county stakeholders collaborated to develop energy modeling sim- ulations that tested how variables in the building’s geome- try, orientation, daylighting, building envelope composition and material selections would impact performance. After evaluating the results of the investigation, the team chose to implement a geothermal system for heating and cooling, through which a ground-sourced HVAC pump sys- tem utilizes the consistent temperature of the Earth to heat the building in winter and cool it in summer. In environ- ments with year-round intense sun and heating dominant loads, different glazing locations and characteristics can be explored. Often, glass that allows more solar load in – while increasing the cooling load – will decrease the heating load and may increase the overall efficiency of the building. In addition, a photovoltaic array was implemented to offset the energy use required by the geothermal pumps and fur- ther improve operational efficiency. The Gunnison Library was designed to be all electric, so it is capable of being powered entirely by renewable ener- gy. Incorporating energy recovery for ventilation is key in mitigating the energy associated with bringing in fresh air during very cold temperatures, especially when utilizing an all-electric system. n Creating a shared community vision. Solar and geo- thermal technologies serve the sustainability and steward- ship goals that the community identified as essential to the design of the new Gunnison Library. The design work showcased through the library renovation underscores the importance of a shared vision across a project team when applying strategic, sustainable practices, especially for a re- mote project that is faced with harsh conditions. Today, as library visitors enjoy the expansive mountain views, they can take heart that the building was construct- ed sustainably to celebrate the natural environment show- cased in the design. \\ Jon Brooks, PE, IALD, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP, CXA Principal, AE Design Wells Squier II, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP Principal, Anderson Hallas Architects Taylor Reese, PE, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP, CxA Director of Engineering, 360 Engineering