Case Study: Antigonish Town & County Library


The People’s Place, the Antigonish Town and County Branch of the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library is a new green library that opened its doors at 283 Main Street, Antigonish, Nova Scotia in 2011.

Extensive public consultation revealed an overwhelming demand for a new green and environmentally conscious library.

By re-using a 1940s era retail building and incorporating many energy-saving and conservation features with help from Efficiency Nova Scotia, the newly designed building exceeded public expectations.

The newly designed building is 25-30 per cent (over 120,000 kWh) more energy efficient than a library built to national building code
and is over $12,000 less costly to operate annually. The energy efficient and people-friendly features have sparked huge increases
in monthly library use and make it a model for other libraries and community centers.

Antigoish Town and County Library

Solar panel arrays power the Community Access Program or CAP site–lights, computers and offices and is the first off-the-grid CAP site in Canada.

The public reaction has been overwhelming.”
– Eric Stackhouse, Chief Librarian

A welcoming ambiance, created in part by energy efficient technologies, has made the Antigonish Town and County Library a green showcase and a community social hub.

“The public reaction has been overwhelming,” says Eric Stackhouse, chief librarian of the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library. I can’t figure out what people did before. Even when it’s full, it doesn’t feel full.” Monthly traffic, stuck in the 1,000-1,500 range at the old library, zoomed to 17,000 and leveled off at 14,000 after the new building opened in 2011. Named The People’s Place, the title sums up the phenomenal community success of a reused and adapted 1940’s era retail building located on Main Street, Antigonish. Architect for the stunning transformation was Dale Archibald, of Archibald and Jones Architects, Antigonish.

Stackhouse, a key champion of the project during its 10-year evolution, enlisted place-making, a type of public consultation process promoted by Projects for Public Spaces, a non profit, civic minded planning, design and educational organization based in New York. In placemaking, the community becomes the design expert; the architectural and building professionals make the expert’s ideas work.

He found clear consensus among participants in the 30 or more community consultations he led: “they wanted it to be very green.”

Lots of suggestions were offered on how to do it, he says, “We were able to incorporate all of them except we could not do the green roof. We ended up doing a cool roof.” Instead of vegetation, the planners went with triple roof insulation, topped by a light grey asphalt material to keep the building’s interior cool in summer.

“One of the best things, though, was the building itself,” says Stackhouse. “It was oriented to the southern exposure so we were lucky.”

Looking for grants and expertise to realize the $5.5 million green library – a joint venture of the Town and County of Antigonish and the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library – brought Stackhouse to Efficiency Nova Scotia.

With Efficiency Nova Scotia’s help, high performance criteria for building envelope, lighting and for heat, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and their controls were defined, with the overall building achieving 25-30% more energy efficiency than the same building built to national building code. For the People’s Place the improvement translates into savings of 124,000 kWh or $12,400 per year in operating costs. With or without the incentive, Stackhouse says “The municipalities were committed,” but he admits that Efficiency Nova Scotia’s help fortified their resolve to proceed. “Everything helped,” he says.

The library’s energy-saving and w conservation features include:

  • Occupancy sensors in washrooms and offices that keep lights off when rooms are not in use.
  • LED lights throughout the building and in outside street lamps.
  • Low-power light tubes over the book stacks in cloud-like ceiling suspensions that serve as sound baffles.
  • Seven skylights that help illuminate the interior.
  • Windows and seating that face west and south to take best advantage of sunlight.
  • Windows fitted with Solera, a filamentfilled translucent glass with the insulation value of a solid wall. Made by Advanced Glazing Ltd., Sydney, the glass eliminates glare, diffuses light and throws it further into the room while the insulation value increases energy efficiency
  • Geothermal heating and cooling from thirteen 500-foot wells under the parking lot takes care of 100 per cent of the cooling and about 70 per cent of the building heating requirements.
  • A cool roof, with triple roof insulation, topped by a light grey asphalt material to keep the building’s interior cool in
  • Solar hot water.
  • Three solar panel arrays that power the entire library’s IT needs. The system powers the Community Access Program or CAP site – lights, computers and offices and is the first off-the-grid CAP site in Canada.
  • The library computer stations use three watts each and run off two Hewlett Packard servers fitted with EnergyWise applications.
  • Radiant in-floor heating.
  • A ventilation system that transfers heat from exhausted air in the building to incoming fresh air.
  • Under the building’s exterior cladding, a layer of rubberized asphalt called Blueskin that serves as a rain, air and vapour barrier.
  • A rainwater and filtration system to flush washroom toilets with gray water.
  • A hydration station to fill water bottles with filtered municipal water.

Added to these green measures, about $200,000 of locally produced art, specially designed areas for children and adults; inviting spaces to read, eat lunch, hold meetings, watch films, serve food or hold cooking demonstrations; glass walls that can be opened to the outdoors; specially designed reading carrels for two; room for 65,000 books, a Community Access Program site, and offices for the Antigonish County Adult Literacy Services and for Health Connections, the Guysborough Antigonish Straight District Health Authority’s community outreach. It all adds up to a very popular and well-used public building, a model of its kind in Nova Scotia.

Stackhouse says Projects for Public Places recently put the library 25th on its list of 100 top spaces in North America. Still, there is a flipside to all this success.

As chief librarian, Stackhouse presides over eight branches. The Antigonish branch with its exciting new facilities has sparked some envy among its sister affiliates. “Exactly!” remarks Stackhouse. But his acknowledgement is also good humoured; it’s a happy dilemma that suggests plenty of pent up popular demand for energy efficient, people-friendly design and construction.