Changing Times Spur New $48M Library

After a series of delays that halted progress, students and faculty at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga are eagerly awaiting the completion of a state-of-the-art, LEED-certified library on camp

📅   Tue May 27, 2014 - Southeast Edition

Office of University Relations, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga photo
Equipment used on the project has included backhoes, boom lifts, lulls, track hoes and two tower cranes.
Office of University Relations, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga photo Equipment used on the project has included backhoes, boom lifts, lulls, track hoes and two tower cranes.

After a series of delays that halted progress, students and faculty at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga are eagerly awaiting the completion of a state-of-the-art, LEED-certified library on campus. In early 2010, officials broke ground on the 184,725 sq. ft. (17,161 sq m) building, which will serve as the premier location for academic needs outside the classroom.

“If you think about a university’s primary purpose, which is to teach students, then it’s easy to see how a library could be the single most important building on campus,” said Chuck Cantrell, associate vice chancellor, UTC Office of University Relations. “It’s where students go to conduct research, to gather more information and to synthesize what they have learned with other information to reach a reasoned conclusion or argument. It’s the academic heart of a college campus.”

The current Lupton Library, built in 1974, is 116,000 sq. ft. (10,776.8 sq m). In 2000, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission found the building deficient by 58,575 sq. ft. (5,441.8 sq m). Because UTC has experienced tremendous enrollment growth during the past decade, the building simply isn’t large enough to meet the demands of current and future students — it’s also outdated.

“Think about how research and information management have changed since that time,” Cantrell said. “We’ve been doing a good job of keeping up with technology and resources, but we really need a facility built for 21st-century research and learning.”

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen and the state legislature provided one-time funds in the amount of $48 million to fund the new five-story structure, which includes an adjacent two-story auditorium. That building, at 14,778 sq. ft. (1,372.9 sq m), will offer two lecture halls, stacked vertically.

“It’s a unique structure, and definitely complex,” said Robert Duncan, senior project manager of general contractor Rentenbach Constructors Inc. “Right now, we’re finishing the brick veneer and the aluminum composite on the exterior of the library building. On the lecture hall building, we are installing brick veneer and getting ready to start the exterior curtain wall, the windows and glass. On the library, our crews are installing the interior finishes, which are being done from the ground floor up, so it’s staggered.” Carpet is being put in, paint is going on the walls and light fixtures and some interior hand rails are going up. Mill work is being installed, along with the ceramic tile in the restrooms. The project is about 85 percent overall, even though it doesn’t look that way from the outside.”

A good deal of site work remains to be done, including a lot of concrete paving and sidewalk steps, as well as some of the exterior brick retaining walls and landscaping. Construction started in late 2011, with a separate company handling foundation work.

“There have certainly been a lot of challenges in trying to make sure all the parts and pieces for the structure are coordinated in a manner that can go into the building,” Duncan said. “We’ve had to work through the different components of the building and how things are assembled, so that everything fits as it should. We’re starting work on the mobile shelving system, which should take six to seven weeks to complete. On the ground floor you’re looking at about 25,000 square feet. It’s a very large, complex system. We have to assemble it in the building. On the fourth floor there will be a small section for archives but most of what we’re working on will be for books.”

Equipment used on the project has included backhoes, boom lifts, lulls, track hoes and two tower cranes. Due to limited space, finding a place to locate the cranes was a concern. Part of the site work involved installing large storage tanks that capture rain water and mechanical condensate, so positioning of the cranes was key. Working on the corner of campus also meant allowing space for students to get by the project.

The library is situated at one end of campus, with the new Chamberlain Pavilion at the other end, and Chamberlain Field football stadium in the center. In addition to the creation of a pedestrian plaza, the plans include a courtyard and pedestrian spine.

“They’ve already constructed part of a plaza,” said Duncan. “When we finish the hard scape and landscape, we will extend the plaza to this project. It will mostly be a green space.”

The design team for the project is a joint venture between Derthick, Henley & Wilkerson Architects (DH&W) and Artech Design Group.

“We had the distinction of designing the ’new’ library in 1969, when the University of Chattanooga merged with the University of Tennessee, so it was an honor forty years later to get the commission for the next library, said DH&W architect William Wilkerson, AIA.

“For this facility, most design decisions hinged on how to take care of people by inviting them into the building with an open environment and 24-hour coffee shop, giving them spaces to hunker down alone or collaborate with others through various size meeting rooms, providing terraces and other outside spaces giving the student different experiences to meet their needs and the needs of groups, and making it easy to navigate the space by having a glass ceiling and pointing to the second floor reference desk rather than giving directions.”

Wilkerson believes any good project comes with a client who can support and inspire architects to reach their potential.

“We had such a client in Theresa Liedtka, the dean of the library, said Wilkerson. “She had a vision of a library as a totally new experience for the student. The university has a general policy of respecting the tradition of collegiate gothic architecture, but we were given the latitude to interpret it in a contemporary way that met the demanding requirements of a building that needed to be open and transparent for the user. The design uses the standard university brick and interprets a few gothic elements, but keeps it very open and inviting for the passerby and those inside the building. The facility sits on the site of the previous historical Chamberlain Field football stadium, so we created an interior three-story element celebrating that history and the history of the university.”

The library will be the first green building on campus. It will include recycling centers on each floor, multiple windows to take advantage of natural light and a demonstration green roof above the second-floor cafe.

“Sustainability in building design has become a standard in most buildings today,” Wilkerson said, “so it was very natural for us to pursue LEED certification. The LEED directive to introduce more natural light supported our design approach of an open, transparent structure. An interesting feature for this building is the use of HVAC condensing water for irrigation. In our hot humid summers, we generate enough condensing water to irrigate the landscaping around the building, saving money on irrigation water and keeping condensing water out of the sewer system. This happens at the same time of year that we most need to irrigate plants.”

The latest in technology, which involved hundreds of miles of data cable being installed, played a crucial role in the design process, according to Wilkerson.

“Today the library is a media center, more than a place to house books. Books take up less than 25 percent of the floor area. More than twice that much space is devoted to students using technology. Private study rooms have large monitors and plug-in interfaces, allowing a student’s laptop or tablet to be viewed on a larger screen by small study groups. Other rooms like Gig City are devoted to computers with high-speed internet service, where students can work individually or in groups.

“We expect students and faculty to find a new experience on the UTC campus in a 24/7 environment,” said Wilkerson. “There are study rooms of all sizes, but other faculty departments collaborated to bring a one-stop shop to the student in key interest areas such as tech support, advisory services, tutoring, graduate studies and writing skills. In 1969, the library’s primary mission was to house books. Forty years later, the new parameter was a space that emphasized people and relationships.”

For Cantrell and other school officials, it also was important not to go overboard regarding the design.

“We reside within a community,” Cantrell said. “Although this building is going to add a lot of new space for us, we didn’t want to build something so out-of-scale with the rest of campus or the surrounding area. We want to be part of the area, not overwhelm it. As we have grown in enrollment, one of the areas that we see a need is for larger classrooms. We have very few rooms on campus where you can teach a class of more than 100. So, the two new auditorium-style classrooms will be very useful to us.”

Like many urban campuses, UTC faces parking challenges. At the same time, officials want to preserve open space and encourage pedestrian traffic.

“We just completed another phase of our pedestrian plan along Campus Blvd., formerly Baldwin Street, said Cantrell. “We want to extend the new walk between Oak and Vine in both directions to connect to McCallie Avenue, to accommodate the South Campus housing access to campus and to connect to Lansing Court and 5th Street. This new pedestrian walk will go all the way across campus.

“Everyone is very excited about this project. It’s been amazing to watch the building rise up out of the ground, and all of the details we’re seeing come alive. There’s so much pride. We know we’re building a facility that’s reflective of the high quality education offered on this campus. That’s been an important component. The idea that we now have a facility that’s as good as we believe our students and faculty deserve. The students are ready to start using the new facility.”

Another example of how a 21st-century library is different from older facilities is the inclusion of a Starbucks.

“In the past, you weren’t allowed to have drinks in a library,” said Cantrell. “Now, we want people to feel welcome, to be comfortable. We want the library to a place where people congregate and want to come.”

“The cafe space will be one of, if not the largest, Starbucks in our area, said Janet Spraker, director of engineering services, UTC facilities planning and management. “It’s immediately adjacent to the study space and will feature a variety of seating, full wi-fi and streaming video so patrons can check out the line length.

Spraker said the timing of the construction was a good fit.

“The economy was fairly slow when we started this project, so we believe we got very competitive bids. This project is a very complicated one, and daily communications between the contractor, our designer/construction administrator and myself as the campus liaison has been vital to keep things moving. Also, being within a campus environment there are different challenges due to the large amount of student and other pedestrian traffic on a daily basis. But it’s been personally the most rewarding and challenging project I’ve been involved with for UTC. This will be a signature building for campus, and for the UT System.”

The new library will include 38 study rooms, three practice presentation rooms, a 24-hour student study space, four lounges, an information commons and an advanced media studio. Students also will have access to more than 200 desktop computers, seven classrooms, eight seminar and conference rooms and 29 faculty and graduate student carrels, along with two visiting scholar rooms, a grand reading room, moveable compact stacks with storage for more than 600,000 volumes, a new materials browsing area and expanded special collections storage with unique climate controls.

Completion of construction is not expected until late 2014, with the new facility operational by spring 2015. For Cantrell, the ribbon cutting can’t come soon enough.

“A library is a very symbolic location. It’s the hub of the campus, said Spraker. “We need a facility that reflects the progress that our campus has made over the recent years, and that represents the bright, exciting future that lies ahead for us.”