Officially launched on 31st May 2013, the world’s first green library for children, My Tree House, aims to encourage children to explore, discover and learn to read about and care for the environment. To create this unique library, the National Library Board (NLB) partnered with City Developments Limited (CDL), a Singapore-listed international property and hotel conglomerate. The new space is located within Central Public Library (CTPL), an existing public library under NLB.
By Soh Lin Li and Lo Wan Ni. Originally posted in Büchereiperspektiven, Feb 2015.
The most important objective in building a green children’s library was the introduction of Environmental Literacy: the knowledge of pro-environment practices. To achieve this objective, a two-pronged approach was adopted – the Infrastructure – ‘hardware’ – and Service – ‘software’. My Tree House aims to inculcate a strong sense of awareness for the environment. The ‘hardware’ component refers to the infrastructure design that enables a multisensory experience in self-directed learning about environmental issues. The ‘software’ component refers to the sustainable collection, services and programmes which “My Tree House” offers.
The conceptualisation of My Tree House was steered by green principles in all facets from design, infrastructure and the use of sustainable materials, to collections and programmes. It was awarded the Green Mark Platinum Award in May 2013 by the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore (BCA). The BCA Green Mark Scheme is intended to promote sustainability in the built environment and raise environmental awareness among developers. CDL sponsored the design and retrofitted the existing Children’s Section to become My Tree House. The team used recycled materials and improved ambience factors such as air quality, lighting, and energy efficiency. They have also ensured that the library is eco-friendly and integrates comprehensive sustainable practices to create a green library. All the collaborators worked together to create an “enchanted forest” ambience with fun spaces for hands-on learning in the library. My Tree House takes its name aptly from its centrepiece, which is a tree house structure constructed with recyclable materials. The design created an enchanting green space, to entice children and make reading and learning about the environment fun.
There are two key features in the library. The first is the enchanted forest entrance, designed to make visitors feel like they are entering a magical forest. The second focal point is the “Tree House” itself, strategically located at the centre of the area. The canopy of the Tree House centrepiece was built and installed with over 3,000 recycled plastic bottles collected from the public, schools and visitors to shopping mall libraries.
“My Tree House” was created using eco-friendly materials, such as low-energy LED lighting, low-volatility compound paints and adhesives, sustainable carpets comprising 70% recyclable materials, eco-resin and recycled plastics. Existing bookshelves were re-used, and revamped by adding exciting forms and features using wood.
The library is divided into Active and Passive zones. The Active Zone contains interactive features such as the Green Activity Areas, a stage, a Handicrafts Display and the Shadow Play Wall. The Passive zone primarily contains the collections for quiet reading and the e-Reading kiosks. The Green Activity Areas are spaces with modular furniture, allowing for flexible usage by librarians and programme providers for programmes such as handicrafts.
An exciting feature of the Active Zone is the two key innovative installations, the Knowledge Tree and the Weather Stump. The Knowledge Tree is an interactive projection which children can interact with by touching the image with their shadows. The wall projection creates a dynamic image of a mystical forest, which from time to time, sprouts new plants and fruits. By touching the fruits, children can answer a simple question. If they answer it correctly, the plant will grow; incorrect answers cause the plant to wilt.
On the Weather Stump, rings are projected to represent the weather of Singapore, specifically temperature, rainfall and wind speed. The Weather Stump helps to bring across the eco-message and serves as a constant reminder that whatever we do, there is an environmental impact which Nature faithfully records.
Look out for Part II: Services next week!
 About BCA Green Mark Scheme. Building and Construction Authority Singapore. (2015) http://www.bca.gov.sg/greenmark/green_mark_buildings.html. Last accessed: 19 May 2015.