Tuesday, November 17, 2015

2007 Library Bond - I: How Big?

This is part one of an analysis of the June 19, City Council Meeting which decided to put on the ballot the measure to raise $108,000,000 ($108M) for a new library.  This considers the size of the library that was approved.  The meeting minutes are almost transcriptions.  The bottom of this post has readable copies of the minutes and how to get a PDF or video copy.

It is clear from the minutes that the 143,500 sq. ft. library was preferred but they did not believe the public would support the cost so a 116,000 sq.ft. library was voted for with expansion possible if more money could be obtained.  A 144K sq.ft. library is huge.
144,000 sq. ft. library
Even a 116,000 sq.ft. library is very, very big.  More on what such libraries look like here:
and here:

Anderson Brule Architects (ABA) said a 143,500 sq. ft. library was "needed" by Sunnyvale.  This was estimated at $125M with LEED Platinum, or $108M without LEED Platinum specifications.  The city hired a polling firm to see if such a $125M bond would pass and they found it would not.  So a library of 116,000 sq. ft. was proposed for $108M with LEED Platinum - the same cost as the 144K SF library without LEED Platinum.  An amazing coincidence.

Or maybe not so amazing.  The bond statement said nothing about LEED Platinum or what size library it would be so they could have taken the money and built the larger library and forget about LEED Platinum.  Or even a smaller library.  With no size or other specs given, it was $108M to build whatever they decide is a library.  Wording of the bond measure is here: http://www.smartvoter.org/2007/11/06/ca/scl/meas/B/

In the following excerpts, "Alternative 1" was for a 143,500 square foot library.  "Alternative 7" was for a 116,000 sq.ft. library.

From page 13 of minutes (cf photocopy below):
Melinda Hamilton
Deborah Barrow
"[Library] Director Barrow stated the idea behind ...[Alternative 7] is that if additional funding became available, the library could be expanded. Councilmember Hamilton confirmed that the Board of Library Trustees accepted the 116,000 square foot size library... because of the funding issues."

From page 16 of minutes  (cf photocopy below):
Mayor Otto Lee
Mayor Lee inquired what Jedda's opinion was regarding the recommendation for a smaller library than what was originally proposed. Jedda stated she understands that recommendation came from the studies that were performed on what the community would actually support. Jedda stated she would prefer a larger library, but if the public will not support it then a smaller library (with the ability to expand in the future) is a great way to proceed with the project.

From Page 20 of the minutes (cf photocopy below):
Restated MOTION: Councilmember Swegles moved and Councilmember Howe seconded to approve Alternative 7, 9, 11 and 15: Alternative 7 (as approved by the Board of Library Trustees): Council accepts the plan for a new main library using the "Preferred Facility" option as a basis for a two-story library at Olive Ave. and Charles St., replacing the Sunnyvale Office Center and relocating the community garden to build a library facility at a cost up to $108M for a facility of approximately 116,000 square feet, funded by a General Obligation Bond with an average annual rate of less than $20 per $100,000 assessed valuation; the initial size of the library to correspond to the level of funds approved by voters, and with the capability of expanding the library up to 143,500 square feet

Copies of CC minutes.  Click on any to enlarge for readability.

Page 13 of the Minutes - click to enlarge

Page 16 of the Minutes - click to enlarge

Page 17 of the Minutes - click to enlarge
Page 20 of the Minutes - click to enlarge

Page 21 of the Minutes - click to enlarge

The meeting minutes are not available on the city web site but can be obtained by asking the city clerk for it.  Direct an inquiry for CC minutes of June 6, 2007 document number cc-20070619-m to the city clerk's email: cityclerk@sunnyvale.ca.gov .  You can also ask for a DVD recording of the meeting.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Seismic Retrofitting Homes and Buildings

Over, and over, when some government agency wants to demolish an older building in CA they say "it needs seismic retrofitting" which sounds expensive and complicated so people go along with the idea that it is cheaper to tear it down and build a new one.  Actually, seismic retrofitting is typically 1%-3% of the price of a home and 1% to 10% the price of a major office, industrial, or retail building.

By Michael Goldman, co-founder with Deborah Marks of Citizens for Sunnyvale Parks and Green Spaces

Email CSPGSinfo@yahoo.com to get our quarterly newsletter and information about Sunnyvale's moves on the Civic Center and other developments.

Deborah Marks is also leader of Sunnyvale Urban Forests Advocates

Home Retrofitting:

Seismic retrofitting isn't very expensive compared to the price of a new building.  For a standard home in the SF Bay area it would typically cost about $5,000 though it could go up as high as $10,000 or more in special circumstances.  The following chart shows national costs but no one outside the West Coast worries about earthquakes so it really refers to Western US.

"While there is no such thing as a standard cost for earthquake retrofitting a home, the average price is usually about 1 to 3 percent of the home's cost. Larger homes, those built on hillsides, and those with basements or rooms over garages will typically cost more to retrofit and may even cost $10,000 or more."

"Mudsill" is the bottom wood part of a house - Click to enlarge
Above FAQ from: http://www.boltusa.com/faq.html

Apartment Buildings:

For apartment buildings: "After the retrofit, tenants would see monthly rent increases of probably $8 to $50 a month if they were not classified as very low income."
from: http://articles.latimes.com/2014/feb/23/local/la-me-quake-renters-20140224
  • Seismic retrofit of these buildings has been estimated to cost between $60,000 and $130,000 per building in direct construction costs, taking two to four months with construction limited to the ground floor only."

But it can also cost a lot less.  The most contentious issue is often who pays for it - whether the landlord can pass along the cost of the retrofit to the tenant.  In Oakland, "One tenant, Bill Barragano, recently appealed his landlord's "pass-through" of an $8,500 cost for a seismic upgrade, leaving Barragano with a 13 percent rent increase, but the Oakland rent board rejected his appeal."  The type of apartment most at risk is what are called "soft-story" apartments built over a car park area.
Soft-story Apts. - most at risk but usually easily retrofitted

"The retrofit costs cited in a 2009 survey of 48 Berkeley projects, conducted by the Rent Board were as follows: average cost per unit - $3,280; median cost per unit - $2,500."

The National Earthquake Engineering Simulation at UC-San Diego does a lot of testing of apartment buildings on their enormous earthquake simulation platform.

Types of Seismic Retro-fitting:

Most earthquake damage occurs because a roof slips sideways and takes a wall with it, or a house slides off its foundation and everything collapses.  The basic idea of most seismic retrofitting is simply to tie the parts of a building together more strongly than they were at construction.  A lot of older construction relied on cheap nails and gravity to keep the roof on the walls, the walls on the foundation, and walls connected to other walls.  Reinforcing those points with some steel bracing connections is more a labor cost issue than materials.  It basically involves going to all the corners and installing steel bracing and ties.

The Seismic Retrofit Association ( http://seismicassociation.org/ ) has a lot of very clear, easily understood information for industrial buildings explaining with little animations and photos how the retro-fitting is done.  Most of the retrofitting involves simple metal bracing and tying of corners at wall-wall and wall-ceiling and wall-foundation intersections.  Below are a few screen grabs but for the full animation effect please go to:
Click to enlarge
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More here:

Office and Industrial Building Retrofitting:

A paper presented at the Vancouver World Conference on Earthquake Engineering (ref. below) gave a variety of costs which differed on the type of construction and what type of reinforcing was needed.  Costs were relatively independent of size of the building.  Averages were nearly $50/sq.ft. for the most expensive type to less than $5/sq.ft. for the least, as seen below:
Click to enlarge
Note on the chart above that what gets reinforced is often more important than the type of construction being reinforced.  In the chart above, the foundation work for category C (Un-Reinforced Masonry - URM) was far less expensive ($12/sq.ft.) than the Vertically Lateral Load Resisting System (VLLRS) upgrades ($49/sq.ft.) for that type of construction while for category B the reverse was true.

The most expensive buildings by far were 2 historic buildings from before 1927 (when earthquake provisions started) at about $150/sq.ft.  Other buildings from the same time period were in the $30-$50 per sq.ft. range (wood frame being the cheapest) so the two expensive buildings are considered statistical outliers.  Since typical building costs at the time of the study (2004) were around $300/sq.ft., not counting land costs, it was almost always much cheaper to retrofit rather than rebuild even in the most extreme cases.


Some slides by a Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo (SLO) professor on earthquake damage shows what can go wrong and how very simple metal bracing and tying the roof to the walls (instead of relying on gravity to keep it on) can mean a building survives an earthquake without major incident other than a few broken windows.  Un-Reinforced Masonry (URM) buildings (mostly brick) are most susceptible but they can be easily retrofitted as seen here:

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Slides from:

But innovative approaches continue to lower the cost of seismic retro-fitting from a conventional approach costing $26/sq.ft. to as low as $10/sq. ft. using an innovative approach as seen here:  "The main difference between the two proposed solutions is that the conventional approach adds wall panels to make the shear walls continuous while the innovative approach uses viscous dampers at selected locations such that discontinuous walls will not be utilized as shear walls. The estimated total construction costs for the conventional and innovative approaches are $4,391,000 and $2,787,000 respectively, a 35% difference."  For the 25,000 sq,. meter building in question (= 270,000 sq. ft.) that works out to $10/sq.ft. vs the more traditional (and less safe) method at $16/sq.ft.
From: http://ip51.icomos.org/iiwc/seismic/Cheung-M.pdf

Steel Crossbeams on the windows dampen friction


So it is usually much cheaper to retrofit rather than tear down and build new.  It is also better for the environment.  Making concrete and steel, tearing down old growth trees that absorb so much CO2, replacing them with new saplings that don't take in much CO2 and require a lot of water are bad for the environment in every possible way.

"I Like Ike" - Elvis on Ed Sullivan - "Happy Days"
In the booming 1950's with the depression and WW-II over, American suburbs exploded and little hamlets of a few hundred became small cities of 50,000.   It made sense then to tear down the old one-room library in a converted house for a grand new structure.  Things have changed, and we are living in a world we increasingly see threatened by our industrial society.  That in turn is threatening our very existence and we need to become careful with our environment and how we treat it or it will double back on us, with a vengeance.

Recycle, reuse, retro-fit.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Old Brick Buildings

By Michael Goldman, co-founder with Deborah Marks of Citizens for Sunnyvale Parks and Green Spaces

Email CSPGSinfo@yahoo.com to get our quarterly newsletter and information about Sunnyvale's moves on the Civic Center and other developments.

There seems to be some confusion about how durable brick is.  Someone said that they thought the current Sunnyvale Civic Center brick buildings (library, city hall, and public safety) were not built to last even 50 years.  Brick is actually very durable and there are buildings around the world going back many, many years.  The Civic Center buildings could last for generations as we show here.

Deborah Marks is also leader of Sunnyvale Urban Forests Advocates

Manhattan Townhouse, 1844:

Starting from recent and going back to older buildings, we start with this choice piece of NYC real estate from 1844, solid brick.

1844 Manhattan Townhouse - Click any photo to enlarge

Modern Bath
Opened up the Back
Worth Preserving

Renovated Kitchen

Over 8,400 sq.ft. for the low, low asking price of only $20M.  Currently listed for lease at $75,000 per month.  Property taxes $85,000/year.  Interesting how low property taxes are in Manhattan compared to Sunnyvale.


Massachusetts Hall, Harvard University - 1720

This is the oldest building on campus.  It was originally built as a dormitory.  Currently, the lower 3 floors are used by senior administration and the 4th floor is a dormitory.
Massachusetts Hall, Harvard - 1720 - Click to Enlarge
During the British occupation of Boston during the Revolution, it housed soldiers.  When I was visiting Boston a tour guide pointed out the slits in the exposed wood ceiling beams where British soldiers stuck the bayonets attached to their muskets so that they were readily at hand.  The beams were treated with pitch from the start as a preservative and are still quite solid.


Boston Buildings: 1711-1729

If you take a tour of Boston you will go through many old brick buildings.  Here are some that are over 300 years old and look as fresh as the day they were built.  In one old church I sat in the pew right behind the one that George Washington sat in after the Americans took Boston.

Old Corner Bookstore: Built in 1711 - Click on photo to enlarge

Old State House view one - 1713
Old State House view two - 1713
Old South Meeting House - 1729
Faneuil Hall - 1729 - Click to Enlarge

"The Great Hall" inside Faneuil Hall

Paul Revere House - 1680

Oldest Building in Boston


Dutch City Hall in De Moriaan 1220

Amsterdam 1590
An Amsterdam house from 1590 still in use.

De Moriaan is currently a Visitors Information Center in Holland.  Built in 1220 as a City Hall - built to withstand siege if need be.

Oldest Wooden Building in Amsterdam 1420


Herstmonceux Castle 1441
"Herstmonceux Castle is a brick-built castle near Herstmonceux, East Sussex, England. From 1957 to 1988 its grounds were the home of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Today it is used by the Bader International Study Centre of Queen's University, Canada. ... The result is not a defensive structure, but a palatial residence in a self-consciously archaising castle style."
from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herstmonceux_Castle

For the final English one, we have St. Martin's Church from the 6th century, incorporating Roman bricks from a long abandoned fort during Caesar's time.  The church has been in continuous use (including now) since 580.
St Martin's Church, Canterbury, England - 580 AD

Roman bricks in the chancel wall

Jetavanaramaya Stupa, Sri Lanka- 4th Century

One of the Earliest Surviving Intact Mud Brick Buildings

So, yes, brick buildings can last a while.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A 200,000 Sq. Ft. Library?

Introduction: Someone suggested Sunnyvale should have a 200,000 sq. ft. library.  That is big!

For comparison, the Santa Clara main library is 2-stories of 40,000 sq. ft. each = 80,000 square feet.  A 200,000 sq. ft. library would be a 5-story version of Santa Clara's.  When most people see a 144,500 sq. ft. library - the size of the proposed "2007 Library of the Future" - they respond "Oh, that's too big for Sunnyvale!".

See previous posts showing what the $108M 2007 bond issue proposal would look like here:
and here:

But 200,000 sq. ft. libraries do exist so let's see them.  (If the photos don't show when you click on them, try refreshing your web browser page - usually works for me.)

By Michael Goldman, co-founder with Deborah Marks of Citizens for Sunnyvale Parks and Green Spaces

To sign up for quarterly newsletters and updates send your email address to: CSPGSinfo@yahoo.com  All addresses and names kept in strictest confidence - not released to any person, government agency, or organization.

Deborah Marks is also leader of Sunnyvale Urban Forests Advocates

St. Louis, Missouri

The St. Louis, Missouri Central Library was built in 1912 when St. Louis' population was about 700,000, the 4th largest in the US.  The city population peaked in 1950 at 857,000 and has since declined steadily to its current 317,000.  It is the center of a metropolitan area of 2.9M people.  The main library originally cost $1.5M of which $1M was donated by Andrew Carnegie.

Click to enlarge
 Recent renovation filled in the interior court and added a rear wing to bring it to 200,000 sq.ft.
Click any photo to enlarge

Click any photo to enlarge

The major renovation costs were shared by the city, state, federal government, and private donations.  Much of the motivation was to try to revitalize the downtown.

Tons more pictures on the web.
Nice video on it's history here:

Kellogg Library - CSU San Marcos

San Marcos is a little inland from Carlsbad to the north of San Diego.  CSU San Marcos has just over 10,000 students - about 1/3rd the number at San Jose State.

"The five-story, 200,000-square-foot Kellogg Library cost $48 million and opened in Spring 2004. In addition to library collections, services and staff, the building houses academic computing offices, the Barahona Center for the Study of Books in Spanish for Children and Adolescents, the Student Computer Help Desk, the Faculty Center, the Learning Assistance Program, a Technology Resource Center, video recording studios and edit rooms, a 100-seat open computer lab, four 60-seat classrooms, one 80-seat classroom, the campus satellite copy center, and Starbuck's coffee shop."

Click any photo to enlarge

A large library on a college campus makes sense because college students need a place away from the crowded dorm room, or noisy apartment room-mates to study or do a group project with other students.  In a medium-sized city like Sunnyvale, the most common users of physical libraries are kids and middle and high school students.  They can't drive so neighborhood branches they can walk to make the most sense.  Adults are migrating to eBooks and eMedia very rapidly.  In some larger cities, the largest circulation "library" is the "virtual branch" with electronic books and media.

Partly funded by the Kellogg family of cereal fame.

Yonkers, NY Central Library

The new main library was opened in 2002, contains an area of 200,000 square feet and 4 stories. The project involved gutting, refacing and expanding by 40,000 square feet the original 160,000-square-foot, 77-year-old building, which Otis Elevator had occupied until 1983.  I could not find any interior photos of the library or the architect who designed it.  Very unusual.
Click on Any Photo to Enlarge
It replaced the Carnegie Library built in 1902.  Note the more appealing exterior design.  In which one?  Ah - good question.
Post Card of Old Carnegie Library - Click to Enlarge
Main Interior Room - Click to Enlarge

Photo from the 1950s - Click to Enlarge
There are few interior shots of the old Carnegie Library but it evidently had some nice murals and frescoes.  Anyone who has seen a preserved Carnegie Library (some places value their history - strange but true) knows they could be very appealing inside with nice detail and wood accents.

Yonkers old library photos from: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ny1386/


So that's what a 200,000 sq.ft. library looks like. Want one for Sunnyvale?