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2020 Architecture at Zero Library Competition

MBB was honored to receive the Merit Award (2nd place) in the 2020 Architecture at Zero competition for our entry, “Community Currents”. This annual net zero design competition challenged this year’s participants to design a new building for the San Benito County Free Library in Hollister, California. The mild climate and abundant sunshine of the competition site provided opportunities for passive ventilation, daylighting of interior spaces, and on-site photovoltaic energy. Community Currents was designed to maximize this potential with a spacious courtyard providing light and air and a solar canopy extending to the edges of the site to optimize PV production and moderate solar gain.

The jury stated, “This is one of those really careful, calming, rigorous approaches to resolving the program and fitting a building into a place at an appropriate scale . . . it was an excellent and clear plan development with adjacencies and sectional development around the atrium really well addressed. The traditional Piano nobile organization of the scheme is in line with that of historic civic buildings and libraries in particular. We also felt that it was a very good use of the below grade levels allowing the overall mass above grade to be largely reduced . . . Beautiful renderings and drawings, and this (project) in particular is quite beautiful.”

A carbon-negative CLT and glulam grid structure spreads across the site, expanding the limits of the civic space at ground level. A porous plan at street level provides opportunities for the public to wander through outdoor spaces with native plantings and along pathways between rammed earth masses containing community programs. These volumes are arranged around a central courtyard, which penetrates the floors above and functions as social space, providing areas for small gatherings and informal interactions, and as the foundation of the library’s strategies for energy use reduction.

A spacious street-level entry plaza at the northwest corner captures prevailing winds and channels them down across a reflecting pool, which contributes humidification and evaporative cooling. Stack effect directs the airflow upward through the courtyard space, generating cross-ventilation on the upper floors directed through mechanically operated windows. Large areas of shaded glazing illuminate the interior spaces and provide views of the courtyard and reflecting pool. Exterior and interior staircases serve as the primary means of vertical circulation. These pass through and around the courtyard, making the experience of this outdoor space central to the visitors’ experience.