Radiant Heat Concrete Floor at the Jack Russell Memorial Library in Hartford, WI

The Jack Russell Memorial Library in Hartford, Wisconsin features an incredible radiant heat concrete floor and radiant cooling system. This beautiful 35,000 square foot, two-story building features many different great green design elements in addition to the radiant flooring. Designed by Plunkett Raysich Architects, the library shines like a jewel right in the heart of the city.

Jack Russell Finished Picture

First, let’s examine why radiant heating and cooling was chosen, and how it will keep visitors comfortable during the cold winters and hot summers. The radiant system was embedded into the concrete floors at the Jack Russell Memorial Library. Both warm and cool PEX tubing runs parallel to each other. On hot days, cool water circulates throughout the tubing, keeping the concrete floor cool.

This cool floor grabs any radiant heat and traps it in the building. During cold weather, hot water flows through the PEX tubing circuits heating up the floor, which then radiates warmth throughout the whole building.

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Jack Russell Memorial Library Radiant Floor

Comfort is the first thing you would notice, but the Hartford taxpayers also get a very nice benefit from this radiant system. Michael Bahr, the lead architect for this project, said that the heating and cooling costa will be cents on the dollar compared to a traditional forced air heating and cooling system.

I was able to take a tour of the facility on a hot and humid 85-degree afternoon. Inside was remarkably comfortable and very quiet. The radiant tubing silently circulates water in the floor, so you have a totally peaceful environment in the library. No noisy furnaces will be blowing air all over to disturb the peace.

A large “Ice” tank is situated on the northern side of the library basement. At night, the tank freezes water. The demand for energy is less at night, so the Hartford Library only freezes the water at night and saves the taxpayers money. During the day, this ice melts and the frigid water is circulated throughout the concrete flooring. The end result is a very comfortable and spacious setting in both the first and second floors of the library.

When the weather turns cold in Wisconsin, it is time to switch to the radiant heating. On the south side of the building in the basement of the library is a very large water tank. This tank holds all the hot water that is pumped through the PEX tubing.

To give you a better understanding of how this works and how it creates such an even and comfortable heating situation, Michael Bahr compared it to the human circulatory system. The boilers and the hot water tank is the heart. This hot water then gets pumped out into the larger tubes or arteries. Then these large tubes of water meet a manifold and are split up into the capillary tubes. Each manifold is equipped with a thermostat. If one area is hotter than another, that manifold will automatically slow down the flow of hot water. If one area is colder, hot water will circulate faster through that system. The end result is a very balanced temperature no matter what location you are in the building.

Radiant heating and cooling is a major aspect of the Jack Russell Memorial Library, but there are many other features make this into a very green building.

Passive radiant heat is also incorporated into the design. Several windows are on the south side of the structure, but there is a small roof overhang keeping the direct summer sunlight from entering the building. This helps the building stay cool in the summer. The overhang is small though because during the winter months, the sun is lower in the sky. During these months, the suns rays do enter the south facing windows allowing natural heat to enter the building.

Jack Russell Memorial Library Storm Water Storage System

The building is located only about 100 meters from the Rubicon River and Hartford Mill Pond. Because of this, the storm water run off had to be stored and treated before it could enter into the waterway. The State of Wisconsin requires that storm water runoff has 40% or more total suspended solids removed. With the little green space available, a rain garden will be placed. There are fancier terms for this, like biogarden, or bioretention device, but basically the rainwater will come off the building and be stored here. Basically, a large berm will be built up between the library and the pond. In between this area is where the rainwater will gather. This lower area of ground will feature water-loving vegetation. A small section on the East side of the building features a flat green roof where plants will grow. These stormwater features will improve the water quality by 90% of what it is today.

Michael Bahr also explained that there is a “Swamp Cooler” located in the basement of the building. Now this sounded like something from a horror movie to me, but he assured me it was there to squeeze out as much energy efficiency as possible from the building. He didn’t go into great detail on what the “Swam Cooler” does, other than say it grabs the energy and humidity from the air in the building.

The Library also received two grants for energy efficiency design. There were several other smaller features included in this “green” government building. There are almost too many to list!

- The library is covered with limestone rock from local quarries.
- The building has most of it's windows on the southern side, to take advantage of natural light, which reduces lighting loads.
- High efficiency glass to maximize natural light and minimize ultraviolet penetration.
- Equipped with high efficiency light fixtures with occupancy light sensors so lights are only turned on when needed.
- The floor can capture the heat of the sun and harvest the heat from people and equipment and then transfer that heat to areas of the building that need more heat.

As a current resident of Hartford, WI and also a user of the current library, I am thrilled to see this project almost complete. I know I will be in the Jack Russell Memorial Library often.

Related Links

- Plunkett Raysich Architects (photos courtesy of Plunkett Raysish Architects)


"Featured Project." Stormwater Solutions Engineering. 1 Aug. 2011. Stormwater Solutions Engineering LLC. 1 Aug. 2011 .

"Jack Russell Memorial Library." J. P. Cullen & Sons Inc.. 30 July 2011. J. P. Cullen & Sons. Inc.. 1 Aug. 2011 .

"Jack Russell Memorial Library FAQ." Jack Russell Memorial Library Campaign. 30 July 2011. Jack Russell Memorial Library. 1 Aug. 2011 .

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- Written By David Tiefenthaler

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