At three times the size of its predecessor with a recently minted LEED Platinum certification, California’s Half Moon Bay Library is an impressive community resource in more ways than one. Designed by Berkeley-based firm Noll & Tam Architects, the $18.2 million library serves a diverse and growing coastal region that includes Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County and 10 other unincorporated communities along the coast as well. Flexibility, energy efficiency and emphases on nature and the community drove the design of the new regional library that has won multiple awards, including the 2019 AIA/ALA Library Building Award.

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people walking to wood-clad library building with slanted roof

Completed in 2018, the 22,000-square-foot Half Moon Library minimizes its visual impact with its low-profile massing that includes two single-story rectangular volumes along the street and a larger, second-story volume tucked behind. Minimizing the building’s presence in the neighborhood was part of the architects’ strategy to draw greater attention to views of the ocean, which is located just a short walk away. A low-maintenance natural material palette — including reclaimed wood, patinated copper and rough stone — takes inspiration from the coastal landscape and helps draw the outdoors in.

Related: Charles Library boasts one of Pennsylvania’s largest green roofs

nest-like playground equipment outside a dark building with several windows
person at white reception desk with a wall that reads "Children's"

As a result of extensive community workshops, the Half Moon Library is highly flexible. Three-quarters of the stacks are on wheels so that the layout of the room can be easily changed over time to accommodate a variety of events. In addition to multipurpose spaces, the library also includes a 122-seat community room, adult reading area, children’s area, quiet reading area, teen room, maker space and support areas.

people gathered in a circle in a blue and white library room
kids working on computers in a blue and white library room

Sustainability is at the heart of the project, which is designed to achieve net-zero energy. The high-performance building envelope draws power from rooftop solar panels, while thoughtful site orientation and implementation of passive principles for natural ventilation and lighting reduces energy demand. The Half Moon Library also features bioswales, recycled materials, low-water fixtures, high-performance HVAC systems and drought-tolerant plantings.

+ Noll & Tam Architects

Photography by Anthony Lindsey via Noll & Tam Architects

wood benches and round seats outside a wood building