Baton Rouge Embraces Green, High-Tech Library

1By Louise Poirier

Technology and sustainability were at the forefront of design considerations on East Baton Rouge Parish’s $35-million, 126,000-sq-ft main library. The new building includes a north wall made almost entirely of glass to take advantage of natural lighting and a sloped roof that will capture rainwater for plants. The library houses at least half a million books and more than 130 public computers.

“The East Baton Rouge Parish Library has been steadily working through a 30-year capital improvements plan (CIP) and had already built new or replaced existing branches throughout the parish,” explains Mary H. Stein, assistant library director. “All projects were built on the pay-as-you-go plan, which means no bonds or indebtedness. The main library was saved for the end of the CIP schedule.”

The new facility’s design caters to the increasing demand by the public for spaces dedicated to specific needs, including expanded research areas and spaces designed to foster young readers.

“In addition to the design team, senior library staff all participated in the project, and every member of the library staff weighed in along the way, whether it was to double-check workflow issues or try out the chair choices and pick their own color palette and fabrics,” Stein adds.

The library’s new building is markedly different from the 1960s facility that previously served as the parish’s main branch, with sustainable features that take advantage of natural lighting through the orientation of the building, increased insulation, glass selections and sunscreens.

Another goal was to tie the library into the surrounding Independence Park, including the botanical gardens, soccer fields and theater there. The idea was to put “the library in the park and the park in the library,” Stein says.

“Building forms were designed to immerse library patrons in the landscape. Likewise, park amenities engage multiple building surfaces to encourage access and use of library facilities by park patrons,” says Kenneth Tipton Jr., managing principal, planner and architect at Tipton Associates, Baton Rouge, La.

The large program required development of memorable public spaces; unique, age-appropriate library environments; significant accommodations for public meetings; and access to technology while also housing the administrative functions for the entire Parish Library System, Tipton says.

“The design breaks the public portion of the program into unique, transparent building forms that are immersed in the existing landscape,” he says. “Administrative functions form a multistory ‘bar’ along the south side with strategic openings to assure the infusion of natural light into all interior working spaces. Roof gardens provide bonus experiences for staff and public patrons and further extend library functions into the park.”

For contractor Milton J. Womack Inc., Baton Rouge, laying out the building required detailed constructibility exercises to carry the unique design through construction. The new library is located on top of an old airport runway, which partly dictated the shape and size of the building footprint, Stein says.

“The layout of the building was a very difficult element to deal with from a construction perspective,” says Vic Todd, project manager for Milton J. Womack. “It was not square, which led to more time spent on verifying all building materials installed.”

Additionally, the variety of finishes used on both the interior and exterior of the building make this project stand out from others, Todd says. “There were several building materials that you don’t come across often,” he adds.

Two of these materials include BASWAphon, an interior acoustical plaster system, and stretched fabric ceilings called Barrisol, which are illuminated by lighting above them.

Original article: ENR Texas & Louisiana