Building type:

Public Buildings



Project Status:


Gross Area:

35000 Sqm


BREEAM New Construction 2011 (UK) Excellent

Climatic zone:



Thumbnail Library of Birmingham / 0 © Christian Richters
Thumbnail Library of Birmingham / 1 © Christian Richters
Thumbnail Library of Birmingham / 2 © Christian Richters
Thumbnail Library of Birmingham / 3 © Christian Richters
Thumbnail Library of Birmingham / 4 © Christian Richters
Thumbnail Library of Birmingham / 5 © Christian Richters
Thumbnail Library of Birmingham / 6 © Christian Richters
Thumbnail Library of Birmingham / 7 © Christian Richters
Thumbnail Library of Birmingham / 8 © Christian Richters
Thumbnail Library of Birmingham / 9 © Christian Richters
Thumbnail Library of Birmingham / 10 © Mecanoo
Thumbnail Library of Birmingham / 11 © Mecanoo


The library is on the sunny side of Centenary Square. A large inviting canopy at the entrance that welcomes visitors to both the library and the REP Theatre, protecting them from the rain and shading them from the sun.

The stacking of the library volumes creates an opportunity for outdoor gardens, each one relating to the city at a different scale. The lower terrace - The Discovery Terrace - overlooks Centenary Square, and is the most public. In contrast, the upper terrace -The Secret Garden - has a more introverted, intimate atmosphere, reflecting its elevated position in the building. The sloping beds of the garden respond to the gentle slopes around Birmingham.

With its many different functions, the library is wrapped in a filigree pattern of metal circles which are bold and refined interlocking stories of industrial heritage, jewellery, people and knowledge. The large circles may symbolize the craftsmanship of the steel industry while smaller ones might refer to the 200-year tradition of craftsmanship of the gold and silver smiths of the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham unique in the UK and around the world.
Every visitor - every Brummie – can provide their own interpretation, comparing them to the Olympic circles or to the Lord of the Rings. In fact, the façade of the building is designed primarily from within. Entering the library, the repeating circles generate shadows and reflections creating an unforgettable world inside the building. It is an inner world with its own panorama of continuously changing shadows, dependent upon weather, time of day and seasonal expression. With its rotundas and its façade, the building is an ode to the circle: an archetypical form that embodies universality, infinity, unity and timelessness.


RIBA Building of the Year, West Midlands

2014 Considerate Constructors award

Stirling Prize nomination 2014

RIBA National Award 2014

RIBA West Midlands Building of the Year 2014

RIBA West Midlands Regional Award 2014

Architects’ Journal Building of the Year 2013

Commendation for significant contribution to Town Planning in the West Midlands by Royal Town Planning Institute 2011

Commendation for significant contribution to Town Planning in the West Midlands by Royal Town Planning Institute 2011

Schueco Excellence Awards 2015_Cultural


Natural ventilation

High efficient façade

Rainwater harvesting

Grey Water Recycling

Sustainable building materials

Recycled materials

Low-emitting materials and finishes

Ground Source Heat Pump

Daylighting maximised


The Library of Birmingham is a BREEAM excellent rated building and incorporates grey water systems and ground source heat pumps.

Although the Library is a transparent building, it maintains energy efficiency through the buffering capacity of the building mass and the atria. Sun shading and reflective materials within the facades block the harsh rays of the sun during the height of afternoon while allowing natural daylight into the interiors.

The ground floor benefits from the mass of the soil which provides buffering and insulation. The circular patio cut out of the square creates a protected outdoor space and invites daylight deep into the building. The building will incorporate a mixed mode and natural ventilation strategy. The façade will respond to external conditions and openings will allow fresh air intake and outflow. The addition of soft landscaped roof spaces will further enhance the immediate surrounding conditions.

Additional Info - Source: Buro Happold


The facade engineering design evolved through close collaboration with the architect and the other design engineering disciplines, from the initial concepts, through the building envelope procurement period and during the construction installation.

An integrated, intelligent sub-system is integrated at levels 1, 2 and 3 within the facade. The intelligent system incorporates dampers and acoustic attenuators in the spandrels to allow a mixed mode ventilation strategy, in coordination with the ventilation strategy. These attenuators are also acoustically treated to adhere to the tight acoustic requirements of the envelope.


The library has been designed to be an exemplar low energy and sustainable building, minimizing the impact on the external environment and to run with 50% less energy demand than the old Central Library.

The environmental and indoor climate strategy heavily influenced the building massing and form, in particular the size and shape of the atrium space, and responded to the design brief set by the client to achieve an exemplar and innovative design with a BREEAM Excellent rating (Score: 73.01%).

A new tri-generation energy centre will provide energy for the building; free cooling is provided from a ground water cooling system that pumps water from the aquifer below nearby Centenary Square to provide cooling to the areas utilizing chilled beams. Supplementary heating is provided from high efficiency gas boilers and cooling from high efficiency boilers and chiller units.


In order to ensure that the new Library of Birmingham has the best capacity to adapt and change with its users’ needs and can provide excellent thermal comfort throughout the year while minimalising energy consumption the building services engineering was directed by the following elements:

Flexibility – varied use with a range of different opening hours required flexible services solutions, clear zoning and intelligent control systems;
Adaptability – enabling the changing needs and aspirations of the public the building services are adaptable and allow modification to meet the building’s future needs;
Sustainability – achieving BREEAM Excellent rating;
Functionality – the enhancement of the building’s user experience and the protection of precious archived materials has been achieved while minimising operating complexity through robust services strategies and intelligent controls systems;


Simulation was deployed extensively to optimize maximum passive performance and minimize energy demand. Along with a high performing envelope, one of the key low energy design concepts was the incorporation of a mixed-mode ventilation strategy.

Advanced building simulation techniques were used extensively throughout the library’s concept and schematic design stages to predict building performance, allowing informed decisions to be made at these critical early stages of the project and giving overall confidence in the design.


The Library of Birmingham’s lighting supports the distinctive architectural language of the building while providing the functional lighting requirements for each floor.

Lighting is largely delivered from high level down-lights to meet the CIBSE light level recommendations for the wide variety of spaces across the floors. To meet the exacting energy targets for the building the down-lights are warm colour temperature metal halide fittings with integral electronic control gear; the most energy efficient systems currently available.


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N/A (N/A )

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No product info available



Birmingham City Council




Interior designer:



Acoustical consultant:

Buro Happold

Building physics consultant:

Buro Happold

Building services engineer:

Buro Happold , Rod Manson

Energy consultant:

Buro Happold

Environmental consultant:

Buro Happold

Green certification consultant:

Buro Happold

Lighting consultant:

Buro Happold

Structural Engineer:

Buro Happold

Sustainability consultant:

Buro Happold , Rod Manson






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