Vancouver Public Library (Library Square Building)
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Vancouver Library, Library SquareProject Name: Vancouver Public Library (Library Square Building)
Year: 1995
Owner: The City of Vancouver
Location: Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Building Type: Library
Type: Semi-Intensive
System: Single Source Provider
Size: 28000 sq.ft.
Slope: 1.5%
Access: Inaccessible, Private
Submitted by: Linda S. Velazquez,

Designers/Manufacturers of Record:
Landscape Architect: Cornelia Oberlander, FASLA, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander Landscape Architects
Greenroof System: American Hydrotech
General Contractor: PCL Constructors Pacific Ltd.
Architect: Moshe Safdie, Moshe Safdie and Associates; Downs Archambault and Partners
Photo Source: Listicles "18 Flashy Public Library Designs" 2009Photo Source: Landscape Architecture Magazine, 1998Photo Courtesy American Hydrotech
Funded by the City of Vancouver, architects Moshe Safdie, Richard Archambault and Barry Downs won the design competition for the new Vancouver Public Library (VPL), which broke ground in February, 1993 and opened to the public in May, 1995. Library Square occupies a city block in the eastward expansion of downtown Vancouver and includes the iconic nine-story VPL Central Branch, Federal Government Office Tower and a retail/daycare complex. Resembling the Colosseum in Rome, the Vancouver Public Library is a "rectangular box surrounded by a free-standing, elliptical, colonnaded wall featuring reading and study areas that are accessed by bridges spanning skylit light wells. The library's internal glass facade overlooks an enclosed concourse formed by a second elliptical wall," (Wikipedia). The floor to ceiling windows offer natural light and an almost 360 degree view of the surrounding city. The concourse serves as the main entrance to the library and holds special public events. Public parking area with over 700 parking spaces and several bicycle racks are located below ground.

Noted landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander, OC, FASLA, FCSLA, LMBCSLA, designed the semi-intensive greenroof on top of the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch. She worked with architect Moshe Safdie, and although designed for its CO2 benefits, this application is a prime example of some of the purely aesthetic benefits provided by the welcome visual relief for the many high-rise residential and commerial tower views. American Hydrotech supplied the waterproofing and greenroof system.
Photo Courtesy American HydrotechPhoto Courtesy American Hydrotech
The 21-story Federal Tower, part of the library complex, overlooks the greenroof, located on the ninth floor. Blue and green fescues (Festuca ovina glauca v. 'Elijah Blue' and (Festuca ovina glauca v. 'Solling') and kinnikinnick (Arctostaphphylos uva ursi), a native ground cover, were planted to represent the local Fraser River flowing through the mountains as it meanders through the Greater Vancouver Regional District. According to the designer, "The planting reflects the changing patterns of light and shadow," (Cantor, 2008). Over 16,000 grass plugs and 26,000 groundcovers were individually planted in sweeping curves within 14" of growing media. Although this greenroof was installed with a low-intensity irrigation system (used the first year and weekly, during droughts), it does not require fertilization or cutting. The grasses are raked at the end of the winter. Japanese maples (Acer 'Morgan') were planted one story below on the 8th floor along an outdoor plaza, adding another layer of depth and creating an unforgettable partial ring of color that changes with the seasons. The greenroof is inaccessible to the general public.

Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGS) initiated a study on Best Management Practices and Low Impact Development methods and partnered with Kerr Wood Leidal Associates Ltd. to conduct a year long monitoring project on the VPL green roof. The purpose of the project was to assess the performance of the greenroof during the rainy and dry seasons (saturated and nonsaturated conditions). In 2004, a one-year stormwater runoff monitoring program was completed by Chris Johnston, Kathryn McCreary, and Cheryl Nelms, showing a "48% reduction in runoff volume. The green roof also reduced peak flows during summer storm events." See PDF link below.

Additional thumbnail photos:

Photo Courtesy American HydrotechA skylight runs down the center of the roof providing natural light to the space below; Photo Caption & Source: Terri Meyer Boake, June 2003Photo Courtesy American HydrotechView over the edge of the roof to terrace below; Photo Caption & Source: Terri Meyer Boake, June 2003Looking towards the edge of the roof - there are no barriers to prevent a nine story fall off of the edge of the roof; Photo Caption & Source: Terri Meyer Boake, June 2003
The Vancouver Public Library is located at 350 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, BC V6B 6B1; call 604.331.3603 or visit the VPL website here. See a short video of the roof from gordonr on YouTube here; see the case study from the architect, Moshe Safdie here, and visit landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander's website here. Read the Wikipedia profile here, download the "Vancouver Public Library: Moshe Safdie" by Danielle Henry here, a 2004 study (PDF) entitled "Vancouver Public Library Green Roof Monitoring Project" by Chris Johnston, Kathryn McCreary, and Cheryl Nelms here, the 2003 "Case Studies in Canadian Sustainable Design" profile and photos (as seen here in positions # 8, 10 and 11) from Terri Meyer Boake, B.E.S. B.Arch. M.Arch., Associate Professor School of Architecture, University of Waterloo here, and a project profile with additional photos from Goethe-Institut Photographie and Landscape Architecture here. Read all about plans to make the secluded greenroof open and accessible to the public in A field waves on the Vancouver skyline from the National Post, by Brian Hutchinson of July 24, 2006. Click here for additional information on the Vancouver Public Library building from McGill University's Canadian Architecture Collection. See an extensive case study on pages 170-174 in Green Roofs in Sustainable Landscape Design," 2008, by Steven L. Cantor.

Learn about American Hydrotech in The Greenroof Directory
here. The Vancouver Public Library was featured in the 2008 Greenroofs of the World? Calendar.
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