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Milwaukee’s Central Library Goes Green

Green roof and energy cells will be added to the landmark

Jul. 29, 2009
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The Central Library building, one of Milwaukee’s most beloved landmarks, is getting a 21st-century upgrade—a green roof and energy-generating photovoltaic cells.

The plans call for replacing the leak-prone, 30,000-square-foot flat roof on the library’s annex with a green roof loaded with low-growing, heat-resistant sedums, shade plants and ornamental grasses.

Milwaukee Public Library Director Paula Kiely said the green roof, designed by HGA Architects, will help to reduce storm-water runoff, lower the library’s energy consumption and costs, lengthen the life of the roof and add green space to the Downtown area. “Long term, we think that there will be financial savings for the city,” Kiely said.

The basic green roof, to cost $950,000, will be funded by the city, while the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) has issued the library a grant of $250,000 to provide education about the roof. “With the MMSD grant, we will be providing accessibility to the roof and installing a walkway and platform that we can use to bring class groups and other tour groups up to the roof to provide some education on the roof itself and on the technology involved,” Kiely said.

Sensors and cameras will be added to measure the temperature of the surface of the roof and the under layer of the roof. That information will be displayed on kiosks on the lower levels of the library to show how the green roof keeps the library cool in the summer.

In addition, photovoltaic cells—funded by the city’s Energy Challenge Fund, We Energies and Focus on Energy—will generate energy that will be used in the Central Library.

“I think it’s the right direction for the library,” Kiely said of the upgrades to the 1898 Ferry & Clas-designed Neo-Renaissance landmark (the annex was built in 1957). “It will help with the mayor’s goals [to go green], and it comes at a perfect time, since we need a new roof. It’s an opportunity to replace that roof and do something even more with it.”

Kiely said the library is about to issue a contract for the installation of the green roof, which will be completed by winter and open to the public in spring 2010.


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