Building work on £193m Library begins despite weather conditions

By on 07/01/2010 in News

While much of the country has ground to a halt during the snow and freezing conditions Birmingham City Council today bucked the trend as Leader of the Council Mike Whitby helped clear the snow to begin building work on the new £193 million Library of Birmingham.

Taking a seat at the piling rig that will today start the drilling for the foundation works, Mike Whitby said: “Today marks the start of an exciting new chapter for the city. We are on course for delivering a world-class library for 2013.

 “We have brought together the finest contractors, architects and library professionals to deliver this iconic landmark that will set new standards for a library's place in the 21st century, acting as a social, cultural and learning hub.

 “This project is a reflection of the optimism in Birmingham's future as  a progressive  city where cultural developments underpin civic pride and  act as a catalyst for regeneration.”

 Planning approval was granted for the project at the end of November 2009 before final Cabinet approval on 14th December 2009 gave the go-ahead for construction to commence. Carillion Piling is the first sub-contractor to move on to site to begin the ground works in the initial phase of the build project that is due to complete in 2013.

The new building has been designed to function flexibly around rapidly developing new digital technologies, creating new opportunities for learning and access. It will provide increased space and improved climatic conditions for storage of the library's world famous archives, collections of photography, and Early and Fine Printing including rare treasures such as the Shakespeare First Folio of 1623 and JJ Audubon's Birds of America, one of the world's largest books.    Exhibition space will be dramatically increased to allow for improved public access to the archives and visiting exhibitions.

A grand circular open-air amphitheatre in front of the building will create a dramatic visual link between the Library at Lower Ground Level and Centenary Square, while elevated gardens will afford spectacular views over the city.

The new Library is designed to achieve a BREEAM 'excellent' rating, the highest national standard for sustainable construction. In 2009, following archaeological investigations on the site, testing was successfully carried out on site for an aquifer ground source cooling system, an innovative energy saving heating system utilising a renewable energy source. Other environmental features include a brown roof and two green outdoor terraces to support biodiversity, combined heat and power technology to reduce waste, and energy efficient lighting systems and controls.

The next phase on the build project, due to commence in March, will be the demolition of  The REP's extension block that forms part of the footprint for the new development, which will integrate the new library with the theatre at ground and mezanine levels. The building includes a spacious entrance foyer, and a new 300-seat studio theatre which will be used by both organisations


Chronology of Project:

October 2007 - Library of Birmingham project launched following Cabinet approval for full business case. Council Leader hosts VIP event at Birmingham REP Theatre featuring local artists, poets and actor Simon Callow.

August 2008 - Dutch based Mecanoo Architecten chosen from short-list of seven internationally renowned practices to design the Library.

 November 2008 - Wolverhampton-based Carillion appointed lead construction contractor.

 April 2009 - Three-day public exhibition and VIP events to unveil concept design

 April 2009 - Leader of Birmingham City Council, Cllr Mike Whitby and RIBA co-host Birmingham reception for leading UK architectural figures to discuss Library of Birmingham designs

 November 2009 - Central Library granted 'immunity from listing' by DCMS, paving way for the regeneration of Paradise Forum once the library has been relocated.

 November 2009 - Library of Birmingham granted detailed planning permission

 January 2010 - Building work to commence

 2013 - Library of Birmingham to open.

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  1. ian greenwood says:

    Headline in “Post” : cost hike to nearly £400 million (or was it even more). Is this True? and if so where is the extra money coming from?

    We would very much like to see full cost transparency. Where do we get that?

    • SimonH says:

      Hi Ian

      The overall cost of the project has actually come down from £193m to £188.5m due to savings we have achieved in the construction contract – without affecting quality.

      This figure is very much correct for the building cost, as it is the up front capital cost of the project – in the same way the quoted cost of a house you may buy is the purchase price you pay on the day.