Carnegie Library - Carrick

Several years ago Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) was close to shutting down several neighborhood branches due to a funding crisis. Thankfully, city residents voted to apportion taxes to save the libraries, and the CLP has been actively renovating neighborhood libraries ever since. The Carrick library branch is one of the last to renovate.

Built into a steep hillside with windows only on the front of the building, the Carrick branch felt very much like a basement – dark, damp, and dingy. The CLP bought the site next door (a corner lot on a prominent street in Carrick) to expand the building, and put the library front and center in the civic space of the community. The new library, designed by Thoughtful Balance and NK Architects, is built on the existing and new site, and increases the Carrick branch to just under 8,000sf.

Our team interviewed everyone from maintenance staff, to librarians, library users, the library administration, and the community to find out what was wanted and needed for the new library. The over-arching sentiment: “more connection to the outside and access to natural light, please!” Not a surprising request given the cavelike feel of the old building. 

To provide natural light – as well as a quiet, healthy, and ultra-efficient building – the design team suggested that Carrick become first Passive House library in North America. Passive House design manages the flow of energy to drive building energy use down by as much as 75%. 

FLOW is a central idea to the new library: flow of information is the library’s mission, flow of people through the space is handled by the ramp design connecting all levels of the library, flow of storm water at the site is managed by a large rain garden and bio-swale surrounding the building, light flows into the building through large triple-pane windows, and the flow of filtered fresh air is central to the heat recovery ventilation system. 

The library of today is more than a repository for books and a quiet place for study. It is a community center, an internet and tech hub, a space for after-school programs, and a place to access information in all its forms. The end result of the new Carrick branch is a beautiful, comfortable, efficient, and highly-usable space for the FLOW of ideas, activities, energy, water, people, space, and generations.


  • 8,000 sq ft
  • Opened October 2018
  • First Certified Passive House Library in North America
  • .59 ACH
  • Uses 40% of the energy of old library building, but has 2x the SF, 3x the volume, and 5x more glazing!
  • Captures almost all of it's stormwater on site