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2007 Buildings

City of Quebec

Charlesbourg Library

Population: 491,142

Aiming to take a strong first step toward sustainable development and to rekindle the community spirit of the Trait-Carré area in Quebec City's Charlesbourg borough, the city decided to expand the original Charlesbourg library. The new design and construction respected both the ancestral character of the building and modern-day standards while meeting the city's environmental and social goals. The popular new library - 4,305 square metres in size - opened in 2006 with renovations fully completed in spring 2007. The library now meets the needs of area residents and uses less energy, keeping operational and maintenance costs low. An extensive geothermal energy system and innovative lighting system will bring significant savings in energy costs. A cultural and civic landmark, the library is located in a green, pedestrian-friendly and safe environment and is expected to attract tourists, businesses and more residents. The renovation also improved the appearance of the Trait-Carré area, thanks to buried wires, reconstructed streets, and an attractive, state-of-the-art lighting system that illuminates the front of the nearby Saint-Charles-Borromée church.


The Trait-Carré area of Charlesbourg is one of four historic districts in Quebec City. It is one of the first planned communities in North America and the historic and symbolic heart of Charlesbourg. However, the area has gradually played a less important role in the daily lives of Quebec City residents. To rehabilitate the area, the city decided to expand the original library rather than relocate it. The expansion needed to account for a number of considerations, including architectural design, heritage preservation, energy savings, environmental protection, and the safety of the borough's current and future residents. The original library was obsolete and met only 37 per cent of the standards for library resources set by the ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec. The space had to be increased by 3,145 square metres, while operational, maintenance and energy costs were to be reduced using green technologies. To reduce pollution caused by traffic and provide easier access to the borough, the site needed to be redesigned with pedestrian zones. Paved parking areas prevented stormwater absorption and so had to be replaced. The street lighting needed to be chosen carefully to control intensity in the most cost-effective way possible.


  • The redevelopment of the Charlesbourg library "plays a key role in the personal development of our citizens," said Line Beauchamp, ministre du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs, adding that the "spacious and functional areas...increased the desire to read" (translation).
  • The library renovations reduced the costs for heating, air conditioning, roofing, potable water consumption, and heat recovery by ventilation. All of the techniques used are now applied in ongoing projects in Quebec City.
  • The anticipated energy reduction is 53 per cent higher than in a standard building meeting the requirements of the Model National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings. Cost recovery is expected within about six years.
  • The new library is a strong and tangible first step toward sustainable development in terms of protecting the environment, reducing energy use, and preserving cultural heritage.
  • The development of a large pedestrian area has reduced traffic flow and made Trait-Carré a safe, accessible and healthy place.
  • Quebec City is the first city in North America to use a lighting system with programmable and cost-effective rheostats. These will also be used in two other historic sites.
  • In 2005, the Commission des biens culturels called this project a model for other historic boroughs in Quebec.

Lessons Learned

  • ENSURE NEEDS AND GOALS ARE WELL-DEFINED. After five years of planning for the Trait-Carré project, the partners were able to work together in a spirit of collaboration and productivity, as well as develop a consensus of opinion and solicit adequate project funding.
  • TAKE THE TIME TO CONSULT. Five years of information sharing and discussions with the public enabled the project partners to rehabilitate the Trait-Carré area in a way that took into account the knowledge and requirements of all interested parties.
  • PLAN FOR SUCCESS. The human resources needs of the library were underestimated, but it was difficult to predict that the library's client base would climb to 25,000. More than 7,500 people visited the library as soon as it opened, but the number of library staff remained the same. The city is working to resolve the problem.

Partners and Collaboration

  • BPR Groupe-conseil (mechanical, electrical, structural and civil engineers)
  • Charlesbourg historical society
  • Commission de design et d'aménagement
  • Commission de la capitale nationale du Québec
  • Commission des biens culturels
  • Congrégation des Soeurs du Bon Pasteur
  • Croft Pelletier architectes
  • Hydro-Québec
  • Members of the planning council
  • Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec
  • Quebec City residents
  • Saint-Charles-Borromée parish council
Page Updated: 08/02/2016