Open arms, open book

Embracing its community, a library invites all to grow
August 11, 2010

Inviting is an appropriate word to describe the Carmel Clay Public Library. Facing the street, the library's concave main entrance serves as a welcoming metaphor — opening its arms to the residents of Carmel, Ind., and Clay Township.

The community — which approved a bond referendum to fund the project — has been receptive to the library's invitation, according to Wendy Phillips, the library's director. "The library is a real community center," she says. "We've heard stories for years about the death of the book, but it just hasn't happened. Our circulation has increased dramatically."

The backbone of the library is a collection of 300,000 books, along with 655 periodicals and 46,000 nonprint items, including CD-ROMs, videos and audiocassettes. Patrons are further attracted by more than 120 online computer stations that provide access to the library's catalog, Internet and other databases. The facility offers opportunity for shopping, relaxation and conversation in its coffee shop and store.

Phillips credits the coordination and creativity of the building team for the success of the project and the design for helping to draw patrons into the library (see "Talking it out," page 44). "The exterior and interior design are compatible and flow together," she says. "For the most part, the building turned out the way we hoped and expected it would."

Turning hopes into reality

The challenge of converting the owner's hopes and expectations into reality rested with three firms: construction manager Geupel DeMars Hagerman Inc. (GDH) of Indianapolis; design architect Meyer Scherer & Rockcastle Ltd. (MS&R) of Minneapolis; and executive architect Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Inc. (BDMD) of Indianapolis.

GDH helped the library to select the design team, and worked with the owner and designers through the preconstruction phase. The 117,300-sq.-ft. library is built on an urban site within Carmel's city limits, and across the street from the high school.

Balancing tradition with play

The joy of learning, and its balance of tradition and playfulness, is what the Carmel Clay Public Library is all about, according to design architect MS&R. Each material used and space created evokes an invitation to enter, learn and grow. The theme of organic growth is expressed by plant-life imagery used throughout: in the pattern of the terrazzo floor entryway; the 1/2-in. steel structural supports of a glass-enclosed promenade; and a children's area.

The building's image is reflective of traditional civic structures found in the state. "The aesthetic of the building is something that is a familiar part of the Indiana culture," says Sean Wagner, MS&R's project designer. Tan-colored Roman brick, 17/8 inches by 12 inches, lends a midwestern air to the exterior.

The exterior is distinguished by the extensive use of low-emissivity glazing. A storefront running along a promenade connects outdoors and indoors; at each end, glass curtain wall clads two-story elliptical structures.

Crowning the two-story building are three 5-ft.-high clerestory openings that introduce natural light, thereby enhancing the ability to read.

The complex shape of the elliptical structures required structural aluminum framing to first be set in place before glazing, whose horizontal dimensions varied in size, could be ordered, says Charles Scheele, project manager for GDH. Cedar and redwood trim tie together the exterior. A nameplate above the main entrance is made of Indiana limestone.

Because of its longevity, copper was used on the roofs of the clerestory window structures. Elsewhere, single-ply EPDM rubber roofing was installed for ease of maintenance.

"The number of elements involved in the exterior and interior of the building not only produced challenges in ordering and receiving," says Scheele, "but in quality control and in making sure all the parts fit together."

Clerestory complications

The library's structural design consists of structural steel framing and composite decking of concrete and steel, according to Judith Congdon, president of Congdon Engineering Associates Inc. of Indianapolis, the project's structural consultant. "The clerestory windows presented some complication in providing for the lateral load resistance," which is accomplished with semirigid moment-resistance frames in each direction, she says. The roof is framed with 30-ft.-span, open-web steel joists between wide-flange beams that are supported by steel columns.

Interior tied to technology

MS&R also was interior designer, adding cohesion between the exterior and interior designs. M/E/P consultant Rotz Engineers Inc., Indianapolis, installed category-5 communication wiring for telephone and data, including PC and electronic card catalog installations throughout the building. Outlets for laptops also were provided. Wiring is concealed in the exacting millwork for the cherry furniture and bookshelves.

H.E. Margason, Rotz's project manager, says the extensive use of computer technology posed the greatest challenge for the design of flexible mechanical and electrical systems that could accommodate future changes. Indirect lighting was used extensively to lessen glare on computer screens, as well as to provide for better quality light. The reduction of computer-generated heat gain was taken into account in the design of the variable-air-volume HVAC system.

The building team completed the $23 million library project on time and $1.5 million under budget through value engineering and by working together. For its investment, the community received a "crown jewel," according to the library's Phillips, who says the facility — which embraces good built environment as well as a world of books — is frequently cited by new residents as a deciding factor in choosing to move to the community.

Construction Costs

General requirements $663,000
Sitework 922,917
Landscaping 182,053
Concrete 402,708
Masonry 995,444
Structural steel/metals 1,652,719
Woods/plastics 1,750,486
Thermal/moisture protection 724,395
Doors/windows 974,508
Finishes 2,303,178
Specialties 427,770
Equipment 1,229,277
Furnishing 1,146,110
Special construction 322,925
Mechanical and fire protection 1,792,210
Electrical 2,039,211
Land acquisition 886,783
Legal, tax, insurance & fees 4,583,327
TOTAL $22,999,021