Sustainable design in the Davis Family Library

Davis library

When the College decided that a new library was needed, the trustees selected the Front Quadrangle as the best site for it. However, the former Science Center located on the desired site was deemed structurally impractical to house the new library. A decision was made to remove the Science Center and build a new library in its place. During the process, the College took its environmental commitment to new heights by diverting over 90 percent of the old building from landfills though salvage, reuse, and recycling. Middlebury consciously selected a deconstruction process to maximize resource recovery and minimize negative impacts to the community (noise, dust, truck traffic). In addition, four historic homes were relocated to College-owed sites within the village and renovated. The College received the 2002 Vermont Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for its leadership in construction and demolition waste minimization. To learn about the other sustainable features of the Davis Family Library, click on the topics below.


Because over 50 percent of the electrical demand in the Library is due to lighting, natural light from windows and skylights, energy efficient lighting, and sensors are used to minimize electricity use. Lighting in some parts of the Library is controlled by daylight sensors that turn the lights up or down, depending on the amount of natural light measured in the space. Office areas are equipped with passive infrared occupancy sensors, and meeting rooms feature ceiling mounted occupancy sensors to turn off the lights when the room is unoccupied. Vending machines are equipped with VendingMisers, devices that shut off the display lights when no one is around.

Climate Control

Designed to meet College needs for the next 100 years, investments were made in the thermal qualities of the buildings’ envelope, high efficiency windows, air lock vestibule entrances, and a mechanical system featuring premium efficiency motors and heat recovery. In order to protect the extensive collections owned by the College, a sophisticated climate control system is employed that, with the aid of energy modeling during the design, allowed for the optimal sizing of cooling and heating equipment for the building.

Local Wood and Furnishings

The new Library features 150,000 board feet of Vermont harvested hardwood. Seventy percent of the wood came from the College’s Bread Loaf certified forest lands, and all of the wood was processed in Vermont.  Middlebury College awarded a sizable contract for study carrels and stack end panels to the newly-formed employee cooperative Island Pond Woodworkers in 2002, contributing to economic development in the Northeast Kingdom region of Vermont.  Vermont furniture manufactures were employed to craft reading tables and chairs, tables for group study rooms, and desks with certified Vermont maple.

The Northeastern Loggers’ Association (NELA) awarded Middlebury College the Association’s 2003 Outstanding Use of Wood Award for the Library project and other recently completed campus projects. Since 1999, Middlebury has used more than 500,000 board feet of locally harvested and green certified Vermont wood in campus construction and furnishing, influencing both the ecological management of Vermont woodlots and the economic spin-off by optimizing expenditures within the local economy.

Storm Water Management

Storm water runoff, which is a major source of pollution in Vermont waterways, is managed on the Library site through a system of collection areas, swales, and wet meadows. The natural open swale is planted with ferns and irises, and (unlike conventional storm water pipes) it filters the runoff and allows it to soak into the ground where it is available for plants. This process cleans the runoff, reduces its volume, and protects down steam areas from erratic stream flows.

Landscape Design

Landscape architects Andropogon Associates Ltd. redesigned the front quadrangle of campus, creating paths to accommodate new patterns of pedestrian traffic and to highlight views of campus.

Landscape spaces have been enhanced by transplanting trees to desirable locations. An increase of 35 trees, selected from species native to Vermont, is part of the quadrangle redesign.  Wheelchair access is provided from Old Chapel Road to the main library entrance by a path that curves down and around a radial plaza. The plaza conforms to the building geometry and features a series of stone steps cut from large pieces of Vermont limestone. Bicycle racks encourage alternative transportation and a pedestrian-oriented campus.

Reading Garden

Following a completion in the spring of 2004, the Committee on Art in Public Places (CAPP) selected sculptor Michael Singer to design a reading garden located to the south of the Davis Family Library in the front quad. Materials used in The Garden of the Seasons include Vermont granite and copper-coated cast aluminum in a juxtaposition of the natural and man-made that is a signature of Singer’s work. The project incorporates water as well as native plantings in a manner that highlights the qualities of these elements at different times of the year.