This net-zero library in Quebec inspires us all

When you enter Varennes Public Library, you might think you’re on board a spaceship. “It could be considered a library of the future,” says student and library patron Jasmine Leclerc.

The futuristic library — which can autonomously manage its heating, lighting and electricity systems — makes the small city of Varennes proud. Every day, more than 150 people come to enjoy the library.

Varennes, population 21,000 and 30 kilometres southeast of Montreal, is a renewable energy pioneer in Quebec. The library sits at the city’s centre — a shining beacon with a cathedral-style roof covered with 428 solar panels — and aligns directly with the sun’s path across the sky.

With a wide array of windows letting in natural light and a geothermal system in the basement, it’s clear that energy efficiency and clean electricity is at the library’s heart.

Maybe in the future all buildings could be like this.

Jasmine Leclerc

Hidden among the solar panels, an air intake forces a current of fresh air to the basement where it gets warmed by the outgoing flow of stale air through a rotary heat exchanger. This fresh air — warm during winter months and colder in summer — is silently dispersed into the library through an array of vents under the bookshelves. The thick floor and the books themselves work as additional thermal insulation, which helps minimize temperature fluctuations.

For the City of Varennes, this building represents possibility and revolution: a big, institutional building that is proudly net-zero energy.

Jasmine is hopeful. She sees Varennes Public Library as a leader not only in the community, but also in Canada. “Maybe in the future all buildings could be like this,” she says.

A net-zero library in Varennes, Quebec

The futuristic library in Varennes, Quebec can autonomously manage its heating, lighting and electricity systems.

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