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, will be built on the existing and new site, and will double the library’s size 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 surprising given the cave-like feel of the existing building.
To provide natural light – as well as a quiet, healthy, and ultra-efficient building – the design team suggested that Carrick become first Passivhouse library in North America. Passivhouse design manages the flow of energy to drive building energy use down by as much as 75%.
CLP was already familiar with Passivhouse. In 2014, Thoughtful Balance renovated the Hazelwood branch to Passivhouse standards. After experiencing the significant operating cost savings even while doubling the space, CLP embraced the Passivhouse approach for the Carrick branch.
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 will be a beautiful, comfortable, efficient, and highly-usable space for all those activities.