Gwinnett County Library System l Dacula, Georgia | Architect: Precision Planning, Inc.
4 | Blessed by Location, Elevated by Art
Skateboarders, often the scourge of library staff for their sidewalk capers, are encouraged to visit the Hamilton Mill Branch of Georgia’s Gwinnett County Public Library by the sheer nature of its location. Set in a five-acre corner of an 88-acre park with a skate complex and numerous sports venues, this library is a lure. It offers both skateboarders and drivers of hybrid and high-efficiency vehicles priority parking but also facilitates access by pedestrians with walking paths connecting all the park amenities.
What one percent can do
That clarity of vision extends to the building, which Executive Director Nancy Stanbery-Kellam envisioned as an artistic space that honors the boundless pursuit of knowledge. The design is driven by a desire to create a nature-language experience.
The “integration of arts in the building is notable,” said one New Landmark Libraries judge. That’s the result of a brainstorming session between Stanbery-Kellam and the county’s facilities director. Inspired by the federal General Services Administration (GSA) “Art in Architecture” program, they required architects, as part of the RFP process, to set aside and incorporate one percent of the construction costs for art.
A single artist, Maria Artemis, created the remarkable exterior Rain Stone sculpture and the 67 inspiring art glass panels that feature paintings and literature, located throughout the library. Those pieces and other materials loudly call out water, earth, and sun themes, as do the green building choices deployed.
Eamon Shelton, capital projects manager and LEED AP, expects water consumption to be reduced by 80 percent off baseline because plants and trees were chosen wisely—there is no grass—and water-efficient drip irrigation does the job where needed. The building is clad in what looks like traditional brick but is actually made entirely of materials that would otherwise end up in the waste stream (via www.greenleafbrick.com). Flooring from recycled rubber tires anchors staff areas and the story time nook, while rapidly renewable bamboo highlights a number of locations and surfaces—like the periodicals flooring, screen panels in the storytelling tower, and veneer at the help desk. Sunlight is harnessed through judicious window placement, and light sensors control human-made lighting in accordance with the amount of available natural light. Careful building alignment along with diffusion panels eliminates direct sunlight spots.
A tight budget and cramped site—common constraints—led to creative solutions. Solar photovoltaic panels weren’t in the budget, but library leaders had the fortitude to install the electrical system and roof structure to support them later. And while fitting the building program into a tight corner space might have meant giving up a loading dock and recycling center, this innovative design put those facilities at the front of the building but set back and masked by a beautiful gate made of recycled plastics.
From good to better
An open floor plan with a single staff desk along with properly oriented 60″ shelving keep sight lines open and ensure everyone has expansive views of the park beyond the glassed north wall. Several booths and workstations with large monitors and lightweight configurable seats and tables are designed to enhance group work. A mix of movable and stationary seating can be easily reconfigured. The help desk sign is visible from virtually all angles, while the children’s area sign is visible from the entry.
Noise, a problem at other branches, was brought under control by ceiling-hung sound baffles, acoustic materials, lined ductwork, and fabric treatments on furniture and walls, as well as a quiet HVAC system.
This LEED-NC Gold-certified building is expected to reduce energy use by 25 percent. A chunk of that savings is the result of using Energy Star–rated computers that drop computer-related energy use by 45 percent annually. Sustainability is incorporated into daily operations through recycling in all public and staff areas, green pest management, and green cleaning services and guidelines for cleaning staff to follow.
The words “ Bonus intra. Melior exi. Come in good. Go out better.”—inscribed at the entry—speak to the library as a gateway to a better future and aptly tag this library’s innovative design as a model for others.
SIZE 20,805 square feet
COST $4.62 million
LEED-NC Gold certification
POP SERVED 44,594