Half Moon Bay Library, San Mateo County Libraries, CA | New Landmark Libraries 2019

The Half Moon Bay Library of San Mateo County Libraries, CA, is one of six winners of our New Landmark Libraries for 2019. The new building, certified as Zero Net Energy and LEED Platinum, is the culmination of 20 years of planning, engagement, and design led by the library system in collaboration with Noll & Tam Architects.

In the wind-swept coastal town of Half Moon Bay, you can expect to see surfers, agricultural workers, locals, and school children using the new 22,000 square foot library. The new building, certified as Zero Net Energy and LEED Platinum, is the culmination of 20 years of planning, engagement, and design led by the San Mateo County Libraries in collaboration with Noll & Tam Architects. More than 2,000 residents participated in 26 meetings over the course of the design process, and Noll & Tam illustrated design changes driven by community feedback. The result is a library that evokes its maritime and agrarian roots and which serves as a place of inspiration and engagement.

CALIFORNIA DREAMING San Mateo County’s Half Moon Bay Library riffs on the landscape: warm wood and pops of color in the children’s area. Photo by Anthony Lindsey Photography

Recognizing that more than 32 percent of locals are Latino and 30 percent of students are English Language Learners, the building emphasizes spaces that serve as a community hub for all. Every entrance is designed to create a welcoming atmosphere, including an abundance of natural light, pops of color, and comfortable seating. Sightlines from the information desk span both floors, and unique wall textures communicate to visitors different activities or resources. Situated on the old library’s site, the library anchors the economic corridor of downtown to the surrounding middle school and residential housing.

A plaza welcomes visitors and offers electric charging stations and parking for skateboards and scooters. The building also features bike repair stations and a public-access shower. A coastal transit system links the library to the region. Though the building is two stories tall, it is sited back on the lot and designed to fit into its surroundings rather than overwhelming it with an abruptly different scale and aesthetic.

As the largest Zero Net Energy library in the United States, certified by the New Buildings Institute, this library sets a new precedent. It features mounted photovoltaic panels and extensive daylighting solutions. Taking advantage of the climate, the building includes ceiling fans, passive cooling, and automated lighting and shading that functions based on the time of day to manage the interior environment. Radiant floor heating spans the entire building.

By designing structural elements to be elegant and exposed, Noll & Tam reduced the amount of materials needed to finish the interior. The building uses local and natural materials, including reclaimed wood, copper, and rough stone, to channel its surroundings, including mist-shrouded hills and sandy beaches. The exterior cladding and interior materiality evoke the colors, patterns, and textures of the coastal and agricultural landscape. By placing the community room next to the courtyard, guests can move seamlessly throughout the interior and exterior of the building; programming is designed to take advantage of outdoor experiences.

SUNLIGHT AND REC SPACE Wraparound windows bring daylight to the stacks (top), and an outdoor plaza has seating and skateboard parking (bottom). Photos by Anthony Lindsey Photography

Recognizing the socio-economic diversity of the community, the library includes a dedicated literacy center to promote the growth of language and literacy skills for people of all ages. Visitors can check out laptops, work at an ADA-accessible workstation, and use makerspaces that offer coding, making, and crafting activities.

By identifying target populations, building strong collaborations with agencies and organizations, and designing efficiencies into both the operation and experience of the infrastructure, the San Mateo County library system and Noll & Tam Architects created a shared sense of community and commitment to the project. The future-forward building design is compelling and representative without being a literal interpretation of the region it serves. “Our new Half Moon Bay Library serves as the heartbeat of our rural Coastal community,” shares Director of Library Services Anne-Marie Despain.


ARCHITECT Noll & Tam Architects


COST $24,000,000

SIZE 22,000 square feet


AWARDS LEED Platinum, Zero Net Energy building, San Mateo County Green Building Award, AIA/ALA Library Building Award 2019, IIDA Northern California “Give” Award 2019, AWPA Silicon Valley Project of the Year Award 2019, AIASF Sustainable Community Infrastructure Award 2019

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