Launch Slideshow

The new Traverwood Branch Library in Ann Arbor, Mich., uses wood from nearby ash trees killed by the emerald ash borer in a very local lesson about sustainability.

Traverwood Branch Library

Inform Studio incorporated the fallen ash trees killed by the invasive emerald ash borer beetle into its sustainable design for this library branch in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Traverwood Branch Library

Inform Studio incorporated the fallen ash trees killed by the invasive emerald ash borer beetle into its sustainable design for this library branch in Ann Arbor, Mich.

  • The new Traverwood Branch Library in Ann Arbor, Mich., uses wood from nearby ash trees killed by the emerald ash borer in a very local lesson about sustainability.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp4ED4%2Etmp_tcm20-213870.jpg

    true

    The new Traverwood Branch Library in Ann Arbor, Mich., uses wood from nearby ash trees killed by the emerald ash borer in a very local lesson about sustainability.

    600

    Justin Maconochie Photography

    The new Traverwood Branch Library in Ann Arbor, Mich., uses wood from nearby ash trees killed by the emerald ash borer in a very local lesson about sustainability.

  • The massing of the Traverwood Branch Library consists of articulated volumes that form an L-shape on the site. Thin forms allow daylight to penetrate deep into the building and small, vertical windows on the southernmost facade admit light while protecting the building from glare and heat gain.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp4ECD%2Etmp_tcm20-213821.jpg

    true

    The massing of the Traverwood Branch Library consists of articulated volumes that form an L-shape on the site. Thin forms allow daylight to penetrate deep into the building and small, vertical windows on the southernmost facade admit light while protecting the building from glare and heat gain.

    600

    Justin Maconochie Photography

    The massing of the Traverwood Branch Library consists of articulated volumes that form an L-shape on the site. Thin forms allow daylight to penetrate deep into the building and small, vertical windows on the southernmost facade admit light while protecting the building from glare and heat gain.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp4EDC%2Etmp_tcm20-213919.jpg

    true

    600

    Courtesy Inform Studio

  • Visitors enter the building via a glass-clad lobby on the building's northeast corner. The ash planks harvested from the emerald ash borer-infected trees can be seen on the underside of the soffit over the main door, a prelude to the wood's use throughout the interior. Recessed strip lighting in a staggered pattern calls to mind the pattern of windows on the southern facade and elsewhere in the building.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp4ED3%2Etmp_tcm20-213863.jpg

    true

    Visitors enter the building via a glass-clad lobby on the building's northeast corner. The ash planks harvested from the emerald ash borer-infected trees can be seen on the underside of the soffit over the main door, a prelude to the wood's use throughout the interior. Recessed strip lighting in a staggered pattern calls to mind the pattern of windows on the southern facade and elsewhere in the building.

    600

    James Haefner Photography

    Visitors enter the building via a glass-clad lobby on the building's northeast corner. The ash planks harvested from the emerald ash borer-infected trees can be seen on the underside of the soffit over the main door, a prelude to the wood's use throughout the interior. Recessed strip lighting in a staggered pattern calls to mind the pattern of windows on the southern facade and elsewhere in the building.

  • Wood is the predominant finish in the lobby, making up the floor, walls, under-soffit ceiling, and most of the furniture. In addition to telling a local story and adding to the sustainability agenda, the material is durable and can withstand the high foot traffic, and the variegated color of the planks on the walls will hide the inevitable wear and tear on the building.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp4ED6%2Etmp_tcm20-213884.jpg

    true

    Wood is the predominant finish in the lobby, making up the floor, walls, under-soffit ceiling, and most of the furniture. In addition to telling a local story and adding to the sustainability agenda, the material is durable and can withstand the high foot traffic, and the variegated color of the planks on the walls will hide the inevitable wear and tear on the building.

    600

    James Haefner Photography

    Wood is the predominant finish in the lobby, making up the floor, walls, under-soffit ceiling, and most of the furniture. In addition to telling a local story and adding to the sustainability agenda, the material is durable and can withstand the high foot traffic, and the variegated color of the planks on the walls will hide the inevitable wear and tear on the building.

  • Some of the ash trees were stripped of their outer bark, left whole, and used as columns along the curtain wall facing the nature preserve. Operable windows within this wall are controlled by low-voltage actuators to promote natural airflow into the building, and automatic shades (hidden behind ash planks) close to limit heat gain and glare in the reading room during the brightest parts of the day.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp4ECE%2Etmp_tcm20-213828.jpg

    true

    Some of the ash trees were stripped of their outer bark, left whole, and used as columns along the curtain wall facing the nature preserve. Operable windows within this wall are controlled by low-voltage actuators to promote natural airflow into the building, and automatic shades (hidden behind ash planks) close to limit heat gain and glare in the reading room during the brightest parts of the day.

    600

    Justin Maconochie Photography

    Some of the ash trees were stripped of their outer bark, left whole, and used as columns along the curtain wall facing the nature preserve. Operable windows within this wall are controlled by low-voltage actuators to promote natural airflow into the building, and automatic shades (hidden behind ash planks) close to limit heat gain and glare in the reading room during the brightest parts of the day.

  • The warmth of the ash planks plays against exposed aluminum and glass fenestration. Careful detailing allows the planks in the ceiling to neatly navigate curves and corners, as seen here in the transition space between the stacks and the casual study area.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp4ECF%2Etmp_tcm20-213835.jpg

    true

    The warmth of the ash planks plays against exposed aluminum and glass fenestration. Careful detailing allows the planks in the ceiling to neatly navigate curves and corners, as seen here in the transition space between the stacks and the casual study area.

    600

    Justin Maconochie Photography

    The warmth of the ash planks plays against exposed aluminum and glass fenestration. Careful detailing allows the planks in the ceiling to neatly navigate curves and corners, as seen here in the transition space between the stacks and the casual study area.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp4ED2%2Etmp_tcm20-213856.jpg

    true

    600

    Courtesy Inform Studio

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp4ED9%2Etmp_tcm20-213898.jpg

    true

    600

    Courtesy Inform Studio

  • Technology is omnipresent in the library. Visitors can search for titles at computer terminals at the information desk, and video screens mounted near the entrance display library events and information. Touchdown space for those using their personal computers for work or research is provided in the form of wood tables with inset power management.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp4ED0%2Etmp_tcm20-213842.jpg

    true

    Technology is omnipresent in the library. Visitors can search for titles at computer terminals at the information desk, and video screens mounted near the entrance display library events and information. Touchdown space for those using their personal computers for work or research is provided in the form of wood tables with inset power management.

    600

    Justin Maconochie Photography

    Technology is omnipresent in the library. Visitors can search for titles at computer terminals at the information desk, and video screens mounted near the entrance display library events and information. Touchdown space for those using their personal computers for work or research is provided in the form of wood tables with inset power management.

  • In addition to the natural wood columns, a bent-wood screen creates a sculptural point of interest, and serves the practical purpose of setting the reading room off from the stacks. Indirect light fixtures throughout create a diffused glow that provides enough light without straining the eyes of those reading, but during the day, natural light is the primary illumination in the space.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp4EDA%2Etmp_tcm20-213905.jpg

    true

    In addition to the natural wood columns, a bent-wood screen creates a sculptural point of interest, and serves the practical purpose of setting the reading room off from the stacks. Indirect light fixtures throughout create a diffused glow that provides enough light without straining the eyes of those reading, but during the day, natural light is the primary illumination in the space.

    600

    James Haefner Photography

    In addition to the natural wood columns, a bent-wood screen creates a sculptural point of interest, and serves the practical purpose of setting the reading room off from the stacks. Indirect light fixtures throughout create a diffused glow that provides enough light without straining the eyes of those reading, but during the day, natural light is the primary illumination in the space.

By the time planning began four years ago for the new Traverwood Branch Library in Ann Arbor, Mich., it was tragic but not surprising for the architects at Inform Studio, of nearby Northville, to find dozens of dead ash trees on the proposed building site. Since 2002, some 30 million ash trees in southeastern Michigan have fallen prey to the emerald ash borer, a beetle thought to have boarded a ship or plane from Asia to the Midwest that has since spread to at least 14 states. Its larvae kill trees by eating their inner bark.

Early in a design process focused on sustainability, the library’s architects at Inform realized the dead trees’ wood could become part of the library itself. It worked: The ash trees were used to make interior flooring, wall panels, ceilings and, conspicuously, a row of expressive columns along a bank of windows facing south into a nature preserve, their naked, sealed surfaces visibly scarred in rune-like patterns by chewing borers. “A happy accident”—and a guiding one, says Cory Lavigne, the firm’s design director.

Under the direction of artisan woodworker John Yarema, based nearby in Troy, Mich., the team employed draft horses to help move the ash logs, which were cut by hand, and began a yearlong process of air-drying the wood in Yarema’s shop. Such an intensely local material would add to the design’s ecology-minded strategies.

Those strategies start with an L-shaped footprint for the 16,776-square-foot building, pushed to the street edges of the four-acre site to avoid intruding on the surrounding woods. Parking beneath the building, plus the city’s permission to have 29 cars park on the street, reduced the city’s parking requirement to only 26 paved spots on the site. Cost-cutting sacrificed a green roof, but a rain garden, planted with sedges, slows down and helps filter stormwater runoff that percolates into a nearby retention pond.

Inside the library, narrow floor plates allow the sun to light the warm, ash-lined reading areas. The massing also promotes passive ventilation through operable windows activated by low-voltage actuators, which tie back to the mechanical systems. Window blinds on south- and west-facing façades are controlled by daylight sensors to cut unwanted glare.

The Traverwood library is the third new branch built by the Ann Arbor District Library under its current director, Josie Parker, who wanted a sustainable building design but didn’t initially expect, before the ash-tree epiphany, how poignant the results would be. People, not least children, may see the logs and ask what damaged them. The answer points back to a constant consumer demand for cheap imported goods in a global economy, which has hurt places like Michigan well before the emerald ash borer arrived.

The architects at Inform followed the U.S. Green Building Council’s playbook closely but didn’t apply for LEED status because, quite simply, the money on certification could be used in the building itself. “In our community, it isn’t necessary to pursue LEED to have a project validated and supported,” Parker says. “What’s important in Ann Arbor is that we do the right thing by our community.”


Project Credits

Project Traverwood Branch Library, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Client Ann Arbor District Library
Architect Inform Studio, Northville, Mich.—Kenneth Van Tine (technical design principal); Gina Van Tine (marketing, managing principal); Michael Guthrie (design principal); Cory Lavigne (design director, project architect); Andrew Mannion, Lindsay Cooper, Amy Baker, Jason Roberts, Elizabeth Huck, Melissa Alexander (project team)
Associate Architect VPS Architecture
Mechanical/Electrical Durkin & Villalta Partners
Landscape Grissim Metz Andriese Associates
Structural Robert Darvas Associates
Construction Manager O’Neal Construction
Ash Wood Contractor Yarema Creative Hardwood Flooring
Size 16,776 square feet


Toolbox

24-Volt Motorized Window Actuator System
Clear Line
clearlineinc.com

When the outside temperature and humidity are right, this actuator system opens the library’s operable windows to allow passive ventilation and cooling. Each window has its own actuator, which ties into the building’s thermostat. The actuators require a plus or minus 10-degree differential from the desired temperature to open or close windows.

OpenLight Roller Shades
Creative Windows
creativewindows.hdwfg.com/sb.cn

The library’s south- and west-facing glazed façades have automatic shades that descend or rise to one of four positions—fully up, 30 percent down, 60 percent down, and fully down— when light reaches specified levels. OpenLight LTSEN-INT-V2 sun sensors, mounted on mullions, trigger the shades’ response. The sensors can be programmed to delay the response by 10 to 60 minutes, so that passing clouds or driveway lights don’t trigger the system needlessly.

Stormwater Management Chambers
StormTech
stormtech.com

Even after minimizing the library’s surface parking, Inform needed to anticipate excess stormwater and keep this potentially polluted runoff from quickly overwhelming a nearby retention pond. Three StormTech collection chambers lie underground below a rain garden, where water initially collects. The chambers help filter water and release it gradually into the retention pond.

Galvalume Custom Panels
Advanced Architectural Products
panels.com

These exterior panels were fabricated for the Traverwood library by Advanced Architectural Products of Allegan, Mich., as a custom concealed-fastener system with Galvalume (an aluminum-zinc alloy) and a 1-inch foam insert. Panels of varying widths (8, 12, and 14 inches) secure to adjacent panels and into the building’s exterior-grade plywood sheathing.