Phoenicia Library Blazing a Trail for Passive House

Table and bookshelves at the Phoenica Library.

"The Phoenicia Library rose from the ashes of a devastating fire last year when it reopened its doors in an expanded space that utilizes Passive House retrofit energy standards. This small library nestled in the heart of the NYS Catskill Forest is slated to be the first public library in the US to be designed following Passive House guidelines, which incorporate construction, design and insulation standards that use around 75% less energy than the typical modern code-built building. Structural protection, cost-effective energy requirements, superior air quality, and thermal comfort are the critical features of a Passive House retrofit.
One year in, Library Director Liz Potter reports that substantial energy savings have been achieved.  Previously energy costs for their 1,800 sq. ft. building ran $8,000. Their entire energy bill over the last year, including the brutal 2014-15 winter, is $1,200 for their retrofitted 3,200 sf space. Fresh air quality is excellent because the system pumps in pre-cooled/heated air throughout the day according to CO2 sensors detecting usage of the building.  Mold and moisture can’t arise in such a well-designed system.

Says Potter, “Designing, building and working in this Passive House building has led me to believe this truly is the lowest cost, most energy saving technology available. I sincerely hope all libraries would consider incorporating this in new construction, or in retrofits like ours. My hope is that one day the design will, like it has in areas of Germany, become part of building code as we take the need for energy efficiency more seriously.”

For more information about this amazing library, contact Liz Potter at or visit




The Sustainability Spotlight is a weekly series that highlights community-driven, environmentally sound, and economically responsible programs and projects in libraries and other organizations. You can find more projects in the Sustainability Spotlight Archive or visit NYLA's Sustainability Initiative to learn more about how you can get started with sustainability in your library.