City of Austin Building Library For The Future

Image Credit: Austin Public Library

Image Credit: Austin Public Library

Visiting the local library will become a unique experience in 2016 for those living in and visiting Austin, TX. In 2006, voters approved the bond referendum for a library to replace the Faulk Central Library. Construction began in June 2013 on the replacement facility, which the city refers to as a “library for the future”.

The $120 million New Central Library, which will be located at 710 West Cesar Chavez Street, is a 198,000-square-foot, six-story structure. Lake Flato Architects and Shepley Bulfinch collaborated as a joint venture to complete the design, and Hensel Phelps Construction Co. was awarded the construction management contract.

Sustainable strategies and amenities conforming to the City of Austin’s requirements for new building construction were incorporated with the hope of achieving the U.S. Green Building Council’s Platinum LEED certification. The library will sit on a repurposed industrial site, the former Seaholm Transformer Substation.

The project includes on-site energy production with a 200kW photovoltaic array on the roof, providing 13 percent of the library’s annual electrical energy. This will be the largest solar panel in Austin on a non-Austin Energy building.

According to John Gillum, Facilities Process Manager with the City of Austin, one of the key elements to the New Central Library is reducing energy costs with the use of natural light. Additionally, a rain water harvesting system will also save money and conserve resources.

“A big vault has been converted to a rainwater cistern to capture all rain,” Gillum says. “There will be incredible savings in water use because we won’t have to pay for irrigation or flushing plumbing.”

Showcasing Austin’s unique culture, the New Central Library will have an art gallery and display areas featuring Austin music, musicians, and film achievements. The design also includes a street level café with outdoor dining, 200 parking spaces, a corral for bicycle parking, access to public transportation and an Austin Public Library’s Recycled Reads bookstore location. To accommodate gatherings and large groups of people, the New Central Library will include an amphitheater, a 350-seat banquet event forum, 12 meeting spaces and a children’s area with a large open space for story time. There will also be a teen area, rooftop reading garden, exterior reading porches and reading rooms with views of the Austin skyline.

“[The library] will have the best views of Lake Lady Bird that anyone could want,” Gillum says.

In keeping with the latest technology trends, the library catalog will feature eBooks. Wi-Fi will be available throughout the library, and electrical outlets will be installed for patrons to charge cell phones, tablets and computers. To accommodate imminent technology innovations, spaces, furnishings and equipment were designed to be adaptable to future needs.

“It will be a technology-rich building which [the city] will be able to modify quickly,” Gillum says.

Construction completion is projected for February 2016 which will allow time to install the computers and furnishings before the grand opening in the summer of 2016.

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