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Central Library Expansion and Renovation

Hamilton Public Library (Canada)

Problem Statement

We had a thirty year old six-floor Central Library designed in the “Brutalism” style. The first floor offered little visible library presence. The building did not “sell” services. Central is located in a part of the downtown that some view as less appealing. Use of the building was declining, as well as its perceived value.


We expanded the building to the street, adding glass and energy-efficient lighting. The innovation comes from three elements.

  1. We used a process called Visibility Graph Analysis (VGA) to identify blind spots and to remove them. The shelving on the first floor is low and the sightlines are excellent.
  2. We are displaying art work directly onto glass, using a holographic film. The art images are visible from the street. The images are positioned and designed to capture the attention of evening traffic that may be leaving the attached mall or may be attending a concert at the neighboring sports arena and to make them think of the library as a place for excitement. 

The glass façade of the building (which is extensive) is lined with low-energy, colorful and programmable LED lighting. The intention is to light the shell of the building at night, allowing us to reduce lighting levels inside the building and to save energy while also adding to the buildings excitement. This is part of a retrofit program to save energy in the building while increasing the customer’s experience.


There are three.

  1. The Central Library has experienced its busiest days in the past 30 years since re-opening.
  2. Behavior problems are at their lowest level in many years (crediting VGA).
  3. While the entire energy retrofit is not yet complete, it appears that it will save more than $100,000 a year in energy costs and pay for itself in five years. The Library Board funded the lighting retro from reserves and the savings will be paid back to reserves, giving us an operational savings once the reserves are re-paid.