The media library La Passerelle combines artistic design with excellent energy performance

Médiathèque la Passerelle, Vitrolles

The media library “La Passerelle” is an imposing structure, built in the town of Vitrolles, at the mouth of the Rhône River on the outskirts of Marseilles. This highly ambitious project – half library, half work of art – was completed in 2016.  The building displays massive concrete “sails” that are more than eleven metres tall, and curved, bare concrete façades with 22 different radii of curvature up to 34 metres long, as well as an important cantilever overhang. A total of 4,000 m3 of concrete were used for the project.

Stunning architectural design

The centre has a very special design, with its 1,700 m2 ground level contrasting with the upper levels, which have no less than 2,250 m2 of space. Tucked beneath the upper levels, yet following their external shape, the ground level with its all-glass walls is inviting to passers-by. The entrance leads to a floor that is shaped like a huge billowing veil made of raw concrete, which expresses movement and lightness.

Energy consumption cut by 30 per cent

Based on references from the Mediterranean Sustainable Building (BDM) initiative, the construction of “La Passerelle” became part of the environmental certification process. Three aspects were taken into account: economic, social and environmental. The construction project incorporated many environmental quality enhancement measures, resulting in an excellent energy performance of -30%.

Lower energy consumption with central management

The central air management system has greatly contributed to lower energy consumption and also raises the environmental profile of the building. This type of air management is probably the only way to meet all the parameters for good air quality today: Good ventilation, temperature and humidity control, plus indoor air purification.

Swegon’s GOLD unit improves air quality

One of the goals was to reduce the amount of energy used for heating, cooling, lighting and hot water. To achieve this, the solar collectors were evaluated and ultra-efficient bio-materials were used, such as compressed pulpwood. It was found that significant energy savings were realised using Swegon’s six air handling units compared with classic ventilation systems. The very selective choice of flooring materials or type of paint also helped improve the air quality.



Six GOLD RX air handling units improved air quality and reduced energy consumption. GOLD is a versatile system that is designed for use in comfort ventilation applications and can be used in a wide range of areas. The Gold RX rotary heat exchanger’s fan motors have EC/PM technology to deliver maximum energy efficiency and meet the requirements of Lot 6 of the Ecodesign Directive. It has also been awarded a certificate by the Passive House Institute for its high energy efficiency and efficient heat recovery.



The project included the installation of 11 PACIFIC climate beams from Swegon. These high-performance beams are mounted in suspended ceilings and integrate heating, cooling and ventilation in a single unit. PACIFIC offers enormous flexibility, low investment costs and straight-forward installation.


Six VARIZON® diffusers were used for air movement. The diffusers are complete, rectangular displacement air units that can be direct surface mounted or recessed on a wall or ceiling. They can provide a large air flow at a low speed to the zone of occupancy. Adjustable air deflectors make it easy to change the distribution pattern and near zone. VARIZON® has measurement points for air volumes, is suitable for all types of rooms and is easy to keep clean.