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A Library That Reinforces Community + Wellness

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A Library That Reinforces Community + Wellness

Cambridge Public Library

Health & Wellness | 2023 | Top Innovator

Innovation Synopsis

In 2015, the City of Cambridge committed to an Action Plan to become a Net Zero community by 2040. The Valente Branch Library is one of the City’s first projects to be built under this mandate. With 2022 being its first full year in operation, the building serves as a model for integrating sustainability and wellness into library design.


The complex is a pilot project for Net Zero Cambridge. The Building Responds to the community’s demand for a healthier and more resilient city. The Valente Branch proves both are possible. The team held visioning charettes at school, sporting, and community events and senior centers, resulting in a responsive design for a city invested in the project. The project also had competing agendas of maximizing building utilization and extending library hours while minimizing energy usage to attain Net Zero Emissions.

Key Elements of Innovation

Connecting with nature, providing thermal and acoustical comfort, and modulated daylight were incorporated in the Valente Branch library design. Five play spaces, a reading garden, and a bocce court support physical and emotional wellness. The building integrates durable and healthy materials with a variety of seating options to create a comfortable space for everyone. The library was built with a focus on flexibility allowing the community space to open up for larger gatherings.

Achieved Outcomes

Today, the library circulation, programming, and patronage have more than doubled. The building’s amenities – auditorium, cafeteria, pools, and gyms have been drawing people of all ages and abilities to engage with their city library. This project has become an exemplar on how to achieve an inclusive Net Zero building, not only in Cambridge but throughout the country. The building has been toured by
institutions and presented at conferences around the world as a model library of the future.