Howard Lake Library has broken ground as Minnesota’s first net zero library. The 7,000-square-foot facility, being constructed in the city’s newly created Central Park, is scheduled to open at the end of 2024 and will replace the current two-story building located a few blocks away, where the library has operated since 1979.

CLIENT: City of Howard Lake & Howard Lake Library
TYPE: Public Library
SIZE: 7,277 SF

The First net zero Library in Minnesota

As a net zero energy building, the new Howard Lake Library will be optimally efficient, and over the course of a year, generate energy on-site, using clean renewable resources, in a quantity equal to or greater than the total amount of energy consumed on-site. The many sustainable net zero features include highly insulated foundations, walls and roofs; building and window placement for passive solar gain; and rooftop-mounted photovoltaics as the source of the property’s renewable energy. The project’s design and construction also comply with Minnesota’s statewide B3 Sustainability Building Guidelines, which encompass site, water, energy, indoor environmental quality, materials and construction.  

“There are currently just a small handful of net zero libraries across the country and those tend to be sub-15,000-square-foot profiles in large urban areas. This is truly a watershed moment for the state of Minnesota as well as the city of Howard Lake and the many partners on the project dedicated to bringing to the community the highest-quality, most energy-efficient public library, which will serve as a center for education, programming and socializing for decades to come.”  

Susan Morgan, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, who serves as BKV Group’s Education and Library Practice Leader
A vital, thriving resource for the community

As the city looked to ensure the library as a vital, thriving resource for the community for the next four decades and beyond, BKV Group conducted a feasibility study in 2020 that evaluated the reuse, renovation and expansion of the existing facility. The greatest long-term value and operational efficiency was found in the relocation to the new Central Park in downtown Howard Lake, where the facility can be a single story, provide a multi-use community room available when the library is closed, and also incorporate public restrooms to serve the park.

“In addition to the traditional selection of books and magazines, the library is also an important hub for area residents to access the internet and other technologies, serve as a safe space for students after school, and provide daytime programming space for seniors. With more people moving to smaller communities coming out of the pandemic, the library has also taken on new life as a convenient ‘work-from-home’ venue.”

Susan Morgan, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, who serves as BKV Group’s Education and Library Practice Leader
Long-Term Value for the Community

Features of the new Howard Lake Library will include dedicated collection areas for adults, teens and children, reservable study rooms, a community room available for library use and public rental, and a story time room to separate active children’s programming from the remainder of the library. This space, when not in use for programming, will also serve as a quiet reading room, with doors opening onto a landscape reading garden.