An Environmental Odyssey at Glasgow Women’s Library

Energy Efficiency Improvements at Glasgow Women’s Library

Glasgow Women's Library and Gardens

How can your organisation take action to improve the energy efficiency in your building? Glasgow Women’s Library shares their experiences on climate friendly initiatives which have led to both saving energy and creating a more comfortable space for employees, visitors and volunteers.

As tenant in a listed building, their actions show that it’s possible to make a difference even with restrictions. After years of working with environmental actions, the library is soon to launch a 10-year plan towards Net Zero. We met with Facilities Management Officer, Becca Lewis, to find out more.

‘Energy efficiency and improvement of our work environment walk hand-in-hand,’ explains Becca on our visit.
The organisation moved to their building in Bridgeton in 2012. As tenants, some of their main actions have been the installation of LED lighting, a new gas boiler and window units to add a second layer on the existing windows. Being a Category B listed building from 1903, with extensive rooms and large single glazed windows, the improvements make a noticeable difference.


‘The place is now getting heated up much quicker, and the lighting is more pleasant for the eyes,’ says Becca as we walk through the library’s rooms and she shares the organisation’s environmental story.

 Glasgow Womens Library Entrance with welcome sign

Growing and cultivating green interest

Glasgow Women’s Library has existed as an organisation since 1991, and one of their first milestones in green engaging initiatives was the establishment of Women’s Community Garden in 2003 – part of a programme for lifelong learning.

An Environmental Management System for the Library was created and announced under the slogan ‘GWL goes green!’ in 2008. Key elements in the plan are still very relevant today: reusing, recycling, and not wasting things.

In front of the library, on the corner where the original building merges with an external, modern metal lift which is engraved with book titles, a garden is now fully established. The place was planned and created together with pupils from Hampden Primary School in 2019. During autumn the garden is green in difference nuances; cordylines and bushes in the back and a line of bright red geranium in the foreground. The simple aim is to engage children in the middle of town with a piece of soil and plants which stimulates the senses and builds a connection to nature. The hope is to develop the garden further and expand the green space for local citizens.

Library Gardens

With an interest in saving resources the library also has a ‘Green Cluster’ – a team of seven staff members from different work areas, who meet up regularly throughout the year to discuss, plan and carry out environmentally friendly activities. In 2016 they involved a group of students from University of Strathclyde to get an overview of initiatives which could make the building more energy efficient. This was the beginning of an energy optimising journey which today still leads into new paths.

Saving energy in the building

‘In 2016 we had university students from the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering visit us to assess energy consumption related to the building. They produced a report and we began introducing their guidelines,’ says Becca Lewis.


Improving elements and parts of a building can be costly, so funding has been essential. Some of the funding for specific elements came from the council, for example a new gas boiler. Creative Carbon Scotland has funded other elements, and the library reports back to the organisation. This includes a monitoring spreadsheet given by Creative Carbon Scotland to record regular readings.


‘We had to get our heads around the conversion of the gas we use into CO2 emissions, but Creative Carbon provide a lot of information for the calculations,’  Becca Lewis explains. The gas boiler system in the basement is surrounded by pipes and now dressed in metallic insulation, an additional upgrade.


In another room, floor material is rolled up, ready to be used. It’s underlay material for carpets, made out of recycled plastic. We move on, to get a closer look at the energy improvement completed on the windows. As a listed building, the single layer glass, window frames and handles are still intact. To prevent energy loss, units of Perspex in a light frame are place on the inside. Some of them are fixed to the building, others are easy to take off when there’s a need to open the original window for fresh air.

Not all changes are linked to optimising the building. Behavioural changes are also an asset in climate friendly actions. Beside electricity, water and gas waste, including food waste, is being monitored. The Green Cluster continue to find ways to improve initiatives and engage other people at the library.

Key parameters at the library when working with energy efficiency in a building:

  • Energy audit
  • Funding
  • Green cluster
  • Review, make new plans and actions.

Working with climate friendly actions is an ongoing journey which can be reviewed, adjusted and developed over time. The library has recently made a plan to become net zero by 2032. The plan is created in corporation with the architect company ‘Dress for the weather’. Over the next 10 years they have a list of actions to follow, with the first steps focusing on repairs. Next in their plans is refurbishing parts of the roof which are collecting rain water and then to tackle the dampness in the basement. The very last step in the Net Zero plan is installation of solar panels.

If you are interested in knowing more about the steps Glasgow Women’s Library has taken on environmental matters and what’s next, please take a look at: and look up ‘green’ in the search bar to find all the articles relating to the Green Cluster.


Do you want to take action in your organisation?

If you would like to know how Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector can support your organisation to improve your environmental practice, please visit climate friendly practice for more information. We run regular events and share the latest news and advice through our mailing list; which you can sign up to here.

Check out this month’s GCVS Directory of environmental grants.

Contact our climate change coordinators Bob and Gazelle directly on

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