Dedicated to sustainable,
high performance building

James Bartleman Archives & Library Materials Centre

On the edge of Tallwood Forest at the intersection of two arterial roads, the James Bartleman Centre creates a public courtyard linking to a future transit station. The new building houses two separate and complementary functions: a new home for the City  of Ottawa’s archival collection and a new location for the Ottawa Public Library’s Technical Services and Materials Management department.

By Steve Clifford

City puts best foot forward to demonstrate new-era building

Four vaults with high-density shelving are environmentally controlled to protect the Archives’ collection of historic photographs, documents, records and artwork Meanwhile, the Library department processes 70 tonnes of books each week through the loading and processing areas for distribution to the City’s 33 public branches.

In an initiative to create new energy-saving facilities which produce lower greenhouse gas emissions, use less water and other resources, and provide high quality indoor working environments, the City of Ottawa mandated that the new facility would be LEED Silver certified. The resulting building achieved LEED Gold and meets the City’s 2030 Challenge for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Grow Wall and Landscaping
Native and adaptive ground level plantings that are tolerant to drought are used throughout the site. The public forecourt fronting onto Tallwood is elegantly landscaped and contributes to a pedestrian quality that was previously lacking along the street.
Nearly a third of the perimeter walls at the ground floor are covered with a grow wall system which, at maturity, will offer significant ecological contributions in addition to energy and aesthetic benefits:
• The monoculture of vines will reduce air pollution and its root system will provide natural filtration of ground and storm water
• It will restore a natural habitat for beneficial organisms such as birds and butterflies
• The dense leafy growth is held away from the wall surface by a grid system, enclosing an air space and enhancing the insulative value of the wall
• The storey-high green wall reduces the perceived height of the three-storey building mass, especially where the building is closest to the street edge and neighbouring homes
• It serves as a public demonstration of the building’s sustainability and communicates with high visibility The City of Ottawa’s commitment to energy and the environment.

Passive Design Strategies
To maximize occupant comfort and reduce energy demands, the building incorporates a number of passive design techniques. In the public and staff work areas there are expanses of glass which provide natural light and create an open, inviting appearance. Ceramic frit within the glazing, displaying excerpts from some of the oldest and most unique items in the Archives holdings, reduces the heat gain from the sun while providing diffuse natural light deeper inside the building. Regularly occupied spaces are positioned along north and south-facing facades to capitalize on daylighting.

The concrete structure contributes to more consistent and easily controlled humidity and temperature levels when compared to steel frame construction.

The majority of roof area is covered with a solar-reflective coating which minimizes the building’s contribution to global warming while reducing thermal heat transmission to the interior, improving the quality of the environment for its users.

The Archives
The Archives’ mandate is to gather, conserve, protect and interpret priceless artifacts and to preserve community memory by providing and encouraging public access and use of the Archives.

To protect the collection, efforts were made to reduce the risk of water leakage into the Archives. The majority of archival spaces are located on lower floor levels. Water would need to leak through the roof, then an office floor, before reaching stored artifacts. Also, roof drains and other penetrations in the roof membrane are confined to the roof area above the central corridor, further reducing the potential for damage.


  • Owner City of Ottawa
  • Architect Barry J. Hobin & Associates Architects Inc.
  • Design JV Architect, Shoalts and Zaback Architects Ltd.
  • Structural engineer Cunliffe & Associates
  • Mechanical/Electrical Engineer Goodkey Weedmark and Associates Ltd.
  • Landscape Architect Corush Sunderland Wright
  • Civil Engineer Novatech
  • General Contractor  R.E. Hein
  • Commissioning Agent Morrison Hershfield
  • Photos Tom Arban Photography Inc.


  • Energy intensity [building and process energy] =  914MJ/m2/year
  • A modelled energy consumption savings = 43.8%
  • Potable water consumption from municipal sources = 6,223 litres /person/year
  • Reduction in potable water consumption from municipal sources relative to reference building = 53%
  • Regional materials [800km radius] by value = 33.9%
  • Reclaimed and recycled materials by value = 19.5%


  • Concrete construction with aluminum-frame curtain wall and sealed glazing units, spray foam and rigid insulation, fibre-cement exterior wall panels and masonry veneer, exterior green grow wall by Greenscreen.
  • Hydronic radiant floor heating by Uponor supplied by boilers, supplemented by heat pumps; radiant ceiling panels, Dry Type Fluid Coolers requiring no make-up water or chemical treatment.
  • Flooring: ceramic, cork, linoleum, Interface carpet tile and FSC-rated bamboo flooring, acoustic ceiling tile and acoustic wood ceilings
  • Gypsum board and acoustic ceiling tile by CGC.

Steve Clifford is with Barry J. Hobin and Assiciates Architects.