City of Milwaukee: Milwaukee Central Library


The Central Library opened its doors to the public on October 3, 1898. The original structure is a combination of French and Italian Renaissance styles built of Bedford limestone. Several additions help make up the block-long building that stands today. Central Library has been designated a landmark by the Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.



In 2010, the Central Library took its first big step toward environmental sustainability with the addition of a 30,000 square foot green roof with a 30KW solar panel system. As the building utilizes district steam for heating, library staff surveyed and repaired dozens of steam traps as well as upgraded facility air handling units. The City conducted facility energy audits in 2011 to identify additional energy saving opportunities. By 2012, the building's energy use declined by more than 10%.


In 2013, remaining incandescent lights were removed and LED lights were installed at key locations throughout the library. Additionally the chiller system has been optimized. These improvements are expected to reduce building-wide energy use by an additional 2%. The next phase for the Central Library’s energy reduction plan is to upgrade building controls and to pilot on-going commissioning software which will constantly monitor energy use and optimize coordination of the facility’s many HVAC components. With the addition of these energy efficiency measures, energy use is expected to decline another 2%.



Through the Central Library project, the City has experienced firsthand how the historical character and status of a building can remain intact when properly upgraded with energy-efficiency and sustainability improvements. For example, when installing LED lighting the City was careful to maintain the proper ambiance of the lighting. And while greatly reducing storm water runoff and sewer overflows with the green roof installation, the City will effectively double the life expectancy of the flat roof to 40 years.


Brooke VandeBerg, Communications and Marketing Director of the Milwaukee Public Library, likely summarizes the business proposition for the project best: “By incorporating energy-efficient strategies, we’re making the library more comfortable for patrons while saving money on energy bills in the process.”

For more information and a video on the Central Library’s green roof, go to:


Annual avoided energy cost estimate controls for steam and electricity utility rate increases by adjusting 2009 costs based on 2012 rates.

Annual Energy Use

(Source EUI)
Baseline (2009)
93 kBtu/sq. ft.
Actual (2014)
82 kBtu/sq. ft.

Energy Savings:


Annual Energy Cost

Baseline (2009)
Expected (2014)
Coming in 2015

Cost Savings:


Sector Type

Local Government


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Project Size

457,000 Square Feet

Milwaukee Central Library exterior
Milwaukee Central Library exterior

Solar panels on green roof
Solar panels on green roof