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Case Studies  > City of Highland Constructs New Library with ICF Wall Systems for Maximum Efficiency and Durability
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When tasked with building a new library that would accommodate a growing population and its need for a more technologically savvy and environmentally friendly space, the City of Highland, California, began examining a host of options. With the Highland Sam J. Racadio Library and Environmental Learning Center, named in honor of the former city manager, Sam J. Racadio who dedicated 18 years of service to the city, Highland officials constructed in a library that honored his memory and looked toward with the future of Highland.


Choosing to create a facility that exemplified a commitment to educating citizens well into the future and as well as addressing the latest building sustainable development practices was essential to city officials. However, execution of the design would take a great deal of planning and research. The new library would be three times the size of the old library on Base Line Avenue and house many more resources than before.


Crafted with sustainable design in every phase of planning, the new 30,000-square-foot center was quite an undertaking for the city. A team of architects and construction professionals was assembled to plan and execute this massive project. Concrete applications throughout the building and its surrounding area were chosen to maximize energy efficiency, create environmental benefits, and conserve resources.


Insulated form wall systems (ICFs) were chosen for to provide exterior walls with maximum energy efficiency. ICFs are lightweight forms or molds for concrete made with high-density polystyrene insulation, which stay permanently in place. These large, hollow blocks are shipped to the construction site where they are stacked together to form walls, reinforced with steel bar, and then filled with concrete. The end result is a high-performance wall that is structurally sound and is ready to accept final exterior and interior finishing. ICFs offer a level of sound construction that traditional materials do not.


ICF walls deliver better energy efficiency – keeping cooler air in during the summer months and warmer air in during the winter months. In addition, buildings with these types of wall systems are better able to withstand harsh weather conditions such as hurricanes and earthquakes. The library’s ICF wall systems are not the only use of concrete in the building and on its grounds. The parking lot is constructed from recycled concrete, a by-product of demolition that is readily available and conserves resources. Another measure of sustainable design is evidenced by the library’s rooftop garden. This not only beautifies the structure and substantially increases the amount of green space, but also mitigates stormwater runoff and contributes to energy efficiency by absorbing the sun’s rays.

 Opened to the public in May 2008, the dream of this community project was financially met by a state grant from the Library Bond Act, the city Redevelopment Agency; San Bernardino County and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of more than $16.5 million.


The hallmarks of sustainable design and energy efficiency can be found throughout the library and its surrounding area. By employing these techniques and practices, the center achieved LEED Gold certification, a high honor given by the U.S. Green Building Council for environmentally sustainable construction