The redevelopment of the Stanley A. Milner main branch of the Edmonton Public Library was a publicly funded project that took several years and multiple contributors to successfully complete. The mechanical, structural and electrical engineering was executed by Arrow a Division of Englobe, Fast + Epp and AECOM, respectively along with the design team of Teeple Architects and Stantec.
The project originally began as a much simpler façade replacement, but through consultations with the Edmonton Public Library and the City of Edmonton, it evolved into a significantly more complex restoration and addition to meet their vision of providing a welcoming and open community facility. Originally constructed in 1967 for the Centennial, the library has been a fixture for more than 50 years. Its positioning in Churchill Square in downtown Edmonton opposite such avant-garde architectural feats as the City Hall, the Art Gallery of Alberta and the Francis Winspear Centre for Music, is prestigious and the building warranted a long overdue facelift.
The original concrete and brick clad building was a product of its era that had limited windows and an inward focused design. As library design has evolved and progressed to feature more inclusive, open features and less focus on physical books, there was a need to modernize and evolve. After thorough discussion and evaluation of either a demolition and rebuild, or a significant renovation, the decision was made to renovate. From an environmental perspective, a renovation and rehabilitation would significantly lower the carbon footprint of the project. Retaining the building also allowed the City of Edmonton to keep the underground parkade operational and maintain a valuable revenue stream.
The redevelopment required the engineering and design teams to undertake a thorough review of the existing systems to determine which items could be maintained and which would need to be upgraded. With its location abutting Churchill Square and the addition of the new above-grade transit line, there was also an opportunity to open the building up to embrace and interact with the Square and the public. The expressive architectural addition focused on this northern façade and provided an expansive new atrium and community reading room, tying together the new and existing aspects of the project. The interior spaces were completely reimagined as bright, clean and modern and feature expansive views outwards. The revamp includes a new Indigenous Centre for smudging and other traditional practices, designed with First Nations culture in mind. The marked design improvements, which merited a LEED silver certification, are in no small way a result of the architect’s lofty vision, and of course, the engineering team’s ability to execute it in ingenious ways.
Mechanical – Arrow/Englobe
“The challenge was to work around the existing building and bring everything up to code,” explained Bill Bartelds, Senior Mechanical Project Manager, Arrow/Englobe, “and given the vast weather differences we experience up in Edmonton, we needed to ensure a cost-effective and consistent air quality and heating/cooling system that could ventilate the large, open spaces year-round.”
The decision was made to install radiant heating along the perimeter of the building and incorporate a 75/25 return air system with heat recovery coils. This took the energy efficiency of the building to 128 kW/square metre in stark comparison the baseline which was at 260. Of course, the entire HVAC system now runs on a digital control system which means the City of Edmonton can modulate the temperature from a distance. According to Bill, the true tell of a well-functioning, efficient mechanical system is that you can’t feel it at all. You should be able to walk into a building and walk out without feeling or hearing a thing. Since reopening its doors, the library has not received any complaints about air quality or temperature, which is a testament to Bill and the Arrow team’s work.
Structural - Fast + Epp
Electrical - AECOM
In conclusion, the final development has proven to be immensely successful. The community has embraced the expansive new building and utilized its vibrant new offerings. In addition to the extensive book, video and audio catalogue, there is now a Gamerspace, a Makerspace, a children’s library tripled in size, the PÎYÊSÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN / Thunderbird House Indigenous space and the multi-storey interactive video wall.
As in most successful projects, this was achieved through detailed collaboration between the engineers, designers and contractors during both the design and construction phases.