Library of Birmingham


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Client: Birmingham City Council
Location: Birmingham

Capita worked with Birmingham City Council to deliver the multi award-winning, iconic Library of Birmingham – on time, under budget and with highly sustainable engineering.

The Library of Birmingham is Britain’s largest public library and the largest regional library in Europe. The £188m building was opened to the public on time and came in £5m below budget. Completed in 2013, the critically acclaimed project won a number of awards including: Project of the Year - National Constructing Excellence Awards 2014, Project of the Year - Construction News Awards 2014 and the Design Innovation and Project of the Year - Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (West Midlands) 2014.

This iconic 31,000 square metre new build, houses exhibition gallery space, archives, online facilities, offices and storage over ten floors. An outdoor amphitheatre has been created and provides a performance space for music, drama, poetry reading and storytelling. There are also two outdoor garden terraces and a panoramic viewing gallery at the summit, where visitors can enjoy stunning views of the city from one of its highest points.

We were appointed by Birmingham City Council to manage the preparation of the complex business case, before later being selected as both project and cost managers and CDM co-ordinators for the duration of the project. Subsequently, we led an international design team competition that resulted in Mecanoo’s architecture being appointed, and an OJEU selection of the delivery contractor, Carillion. Our building services team was novated to provide detailed mechanical and electrical design on the project.

The library shares a spacious entrance and foyer, as well as flexible studio theatre seating with the neighboring Birmingham Repertory Theatre (REP). The theatre previously underwent a £3 million remodeling programme and now shares cafe and restaurant facilities with the new library. The REP's workshop and conference facilities were redeveloped into a new 450 seat auditorium where our engineers provided flexible power systems to complement specialist performance systems and lighting design for the theatre’s production team.

Early engagement and close coordination with the Council’s planning, building control, highways, legal and finance departments as well as statutory utilities and other stakeholders was key to ensuring the efficiency and continuity of the process. We supported the client in leading specific working groups and provided an invaluable link between stakeholder groups and the design and construction teams.

In terms of environmental achievements, the library achieved a BREEAM Excellent rating. Sustainable design facilities include mixed mode/natural ventilation, ground-source cooling, integrated combined heat and a power energy centre. The library utilises an aquifer ground source system to reduce energy consumption, whereby cold groundwater is pumped up from within the earth and used in the air conditioning system. The water then flows back into the ground via another drilled well. The use of groundwater as a source of renewable energy will lower the library's carbon dioxide emissions. 

An integral and intriguing part of the library is an Archives and Heritage centre designed to provide close control environmental conditions in accordance with BS5454:2000 ±1°C ± 4% RH along with oxygen depletion fire suppression system for the libraries world renowned collections, including original Shakespeare work. 

We also undertook performance design of the public address and voice evacuation system, which uses the latest distributed amplifier approach that is zoned to fit in with the Council’s aspirations and future plans.

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For further information please contact: