Halifax Central Library

We helped change the face of downtown Halifax with a signature building that has earned international praise—and became the new hub of the community’s cultural life.

The Halifax Central Library is a striking new landmark in Nova Scotia’s capital. The mandate called for a signature building that would embody the city’s civic values while inspiring people with a sense of wonder. To achieve this, we worked closely with the architect to provide civil and structural engineering expertise.

Our specific contributions included detailed structural design, site development, connections to municipal utilities, vehicle access, coordination with the project architect and landscape architect, and preparing multiple trade packages for the construction manager.

An Extraordinary Library

To realize the municipality’s vision for the building, we proposed a design that maximized the site’s potential with a unique structure. Comprised of four stacked and staggered volumes, the building resembles a stack of books rotated at various angles.

Inside, there is plenty of substance to go with the stylish exterior, including a welcoming, comfortable space for reading, studying, participating in public events—or just relaxing in the Halifax Living Room, an area with spectacular views of the city. In collaboration with the architect, we adopted an approach that combined traditional library services with technology-driven innovations and the flexibility to evolve in response to changing needs.

Bold, Sustainable Solutions That Have Earned International Acclaim

We designed the project with Building Information Modelling (BIM). Occupying a total area of 15,000 m2, the building ranges from five storeys surrounding a central atrium, plus an underground parking level.

From a structural perspective, the dramatic geometric design presented us with some specific challenges that required innovative solutions. The most distinctive features are the offset floor plates and the two-storey penthouse that cantilevers nine metres with the help of customized structural steel Vierendeel trusses projecting beyond the building footprint.

Designed with the aim of achieving LEED® Gold certification, the building is economically and environmentally sustainable as well. To meet this goal, we integrated numerous sustainable materials and features, including a green roof and electric car charging stations.

The result? An award-winning project that has changed the face of Halifax and showcased our capacity for bold, forward-thinking infrastructure design. In 2014, the year it was completed, CNN named Halifax Central Library one of the world’s top 10 eye-popping new buildings. Recognizing SNC-Lavalin’s contributions to this significant project, we received the 2015 ‘Engineering a Better Canada’ Award from the Canadian Consulting Engineer magazine.