“Community library puts Precast Concrete in urban spotlight”
VIA MEDIA RELEASE by Cement, Concrete & Aggregates Australia June 22, 2010
A construction system widely used for factories and commercial buildings has been adopted to help integrate a new community library into sensitive suburban parkland in Sydney’s west. Precast concrete panels, carefully detailed to match the scale of the building and its urban setting, have helped ensure the new High Street Community Library is right at home among the Federation homes and bungalow cottages of leafy Strathfield. Designed by architect Colin M Brown, of Arena Design Architects, the multi-function building replaces the old branch library. In addition to library facilities, the new building includes a public meeting space, with accompanying kitchenette and toilets, which can be used for a variety of community purposes.
According to Brown, the new building punches well above its weight architecturally, a product of his drive to “…see how much we could deliver within the brief.” That desire has, in part, been fulfilled by a thorough exploration of materials and finishes. The result is a building that is of its time and space, both beautiful and functional. The north-facing building has been designed according to sound ESD principles. The large internal spaces are situated on this northern side, which is extensively glazed for maximum solar heat and light gain.
An insitu concrete floor inside the building provides thermal mass to ‘bank’ the heat and disseminate it during winter. This exposed concrete floor has a honed finish. The extended northern roof eave, together with a steel colonnade that wraps around the eastern and western facades, provides shading during the warmer summer months. This colonnade also helps reduce the scale of the building, encouraging it to blend more evenly into its urban environment. The building also incorporates natural ventilation via louvre windows and rainwater harvesting, with water collected from the roof and stored in rainwater tanks for park irrigation and amenities.
The fundamental external fabric of the building is provided by the precast concrete panels. The High Street project was the first time Brown had worked with precast. He says he was excited by the design opportunities it presented. “I didn’t want people to look at (the library) as a kit building, but rather as a piece of poetic architecture in a parkland setting,” he says. “When I first started looking at precast it was obvious that it provided a myriad of color, textural and form possibilities.” Brown opted for a standard grey concrete mix with basalt aggregate, but cleverly incorporated three finishes across the panel designs to create subtle colour and textural differences that distinguish different building planes.
For example, the panels at the rear of the eastern side of the building feature a ribbed pattern with an acid etched finish along the top, and a darker, retarded finish at the bottom. This ribbing pattern also helps to disguise the join between the panels. Elsewhere, other panels feature a washed finish that is juxtaposed with the darker retarded finish. The palette of warm greys created by these different finishes also works well against the bark colours of the surrounding eucalypts, and alongside the timber decking and small sections of timber feature walling that act as a foil to the concrete. The precast panels along the highly visible northern face of the building have been articulated with mitred corners, again to create a more architectural, less industrial feel. Construction of the community library was project managed by Waldock Constructions.
The precast concrete panels were manufactured by Australian Innovative Precast at their Smeaton Grange factory, near Narellan, then delivered to site on the back of a truck and erected by crane in a matter of days. Brown says he is very happy with the outcome and the experience of using precast for the first time, and put the success of the project down to the collaborative approach taken with the pre-caster, the project manager and the structural engineers, Partridge Partners.