University of Virginia Alderman Library demolition continues with sustainability in mind

University of Virginia Alderman Library demolition continues with sustainability in mind

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Brick by brick, and beam by beam, the stacks of Alderman Library are coming down, as the university continues major renovations that will bring the library into the 21st century.

“I think everybody’s looking for a safer and healthier building,” UVA Dean of Libraries John Unsworth said. “Especially the people who come to work in it every day, whether they’re students or staff.”

Alderman Library has been improved several times over the nearly 75 years since it was built in 1937, but never quite like this. Unsworth says this project isn’t just a renovation: it’s a restoration.

“We’re restoring about three quarters of the building, by footprint at least, to something much more like it’s original aesthetic condition than anyone has seen since the air conditioning went in in the 1980s,” Unsworth explained.

Before the new library can be built from the ground up, the old one must be torn down. It’s a process that is slow going, due in part to the toxic materials used in past constructions.

“A big part of our effort right now is getting rid of asbestos,” UVA Senior Project Manager Kit Meyer explained. “There’s a lot of toxic materials in this building, it was built in 1938 and 1967. So, lead paint, asbestos...this has been very slow, very methodical removals.”

That requires a slow process, but one that is allowing for the construction to be as waste-free as possible.

“The concrete brick will get chewed up as gravel and another site, the rebar will go into metal recycling,” Meyer said. “We do a lot to not just throw the whole thing in the landfill.”

Sustainability will be the name of the game for the building after the fact, too. It will use 50% less energy than the old library, despite a host of new improvements. Water tanks on site will also help lower its water usage.

“Those are going to hold about 40,000 gallons worth of water,” Meyer said of the tanks. “They’re going to be reclaiming storm water that’s running off the Alderman library during storms and also collecting water from the natural stream here.”

With students returning to grounds, the project will move into a new phase. They hope to have McCormick Road back open to thru traffic within the next few weeks, and will have more work contained to the fenced in construction site.

While the work is proceeding on schedule, it is far from over. Demolition is expected to be done by the end of the year, but the renovation is expected to take until 2023.

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