Outsulating the Collections

Ridgway Building, Library Company of PhiladelphiaWhen the Ridgway Building was built in 1965, the cost of fuel was low enough that the architects didn’t think about the need to create a barrier against temperature and moisture.  In 2013, however, the lack of insulation around the building’s five stack floors raises the cost of maintaining ideal temperature and humidity levels substantially.  One of the items on John Van Horne’s to-do list for his last year as Director is to address this inefficiency of the “brutalist” poured-concrete structure. 
However, a study of the feasibility of insulating storage floors three through seven showed that the expense of moving books and shelves would be prohibitive.  Happily, BWA Architects’ Morris Zimmerman devised an innovative and cost-effective way to create thermal and moisture barriers around our rare printed materials; we will begin work this month on the “outsulation” of the storage floors. 
The East and West elevations of the building (the sides of the building above the wall adjoining the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to the East and the Cassatt House to the West), faced in brick and essentially invisible from the street level, will be wrapped with insulation foam and a layer of a glass facing material.  Facing material for the North and South elevation exteriors (the Locust Street front façade and the rear façade) will be designed to mimic the current molded concrete with their signature “mid-century modern” design elements.
The project will also correct a design flaw in the form of windows on the North and South façades of the stack floors.  These window enclosures will be covered over on the inside to improve insulation, reduce harmful light exposure, and moderately increase the number of linear feet of shelving available.  The window exteriors will be replaced with either a solid insulated panel or with high-quality glazing that will replicate the original façade elements. We will additionally install a vapor-retarding membrane on the ceiling of the seventh floor below the penthouse mechanical room. The architects estimate that the work will reduce heating and cooling bills by 15% overall, for an annual cost savings of approximately $30,000.
The work will be undertaken between November 2013 and March 2014 and will be supervised by Library Company Chief of Maintenance Al Dallasta.  The project is made possible by a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project (RACP) grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and a matching grant from the McLean Contributionship.
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