Scott Brownrigg completes new book storage facilities for Oxford University's Bodleian Library


Scott Brownrigg has completed a new £26m book storage facility for the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford which was officially opened today (7 October 2010).  The 11,700 sq m (126,000 sq ft) facility is based in South Marston, Swindon

The book storage facility provides a long-term storage solution for up to eight million volumes from the Libraries’ collections.  The Bodleian Library is one of six legal deposit libraries in the UK which collectively maintain the national published archive of the British Isles and have the right to request copies of any published material from publishers and distributors in the United Kingdom and Ireland.  The Bodleian Library requires an additional 3 kilometres of shelving each year to accommodate legal deposit and purchased material.

Scott Brownrigg has worked alongside Oxford University Estates Directorate and specialist racking and logistics consultants Total Logistics as well as mechanical and electrical engineers, fire and structural consultants, to develop a highly specialised and customised architectural solution to serve the future of the Bodleian Libraries.  The building has an extended design life of 100 years and a strategy has already been developed to allow the building to be extended in years to come, with minimum disruption to operations.

The 12m high 10,000 sq m (108,000 sq ft) main storage chamber is divided into four fire-rated compartments and has a bespoke BRE tested sprinkler system integrated into the shelving system.  The cladding is composed of bespoke four hour fire rated high performance insulated concrete sandwich panels which provide high thermal mass to regulate the internal temperature and humidity.  The building has excellent air tightness and has achieved an on-site air test result of 1.6m3/h/m2.

A single storey ancillary space along the east façade accommodates the working and sorting area, offices, data, IT, and staff spaces.  It is clad in the same insulated concrete panels as the chamber and features a cast-in graphic pattern designed as an abstract motif representing the millions of stacked books within.  A wall of timber cladding provides a welcoming entrance and imparts a warmth and human scale to the building design - enhanced by the contrast with the adjacent austere concrete cladding panels. The timber cladding makes reference to the use of plants in the making of books throughout history, and the vertical nature of the timber cladding corresponds to the matrix like shelving system inside. 

The building is designed to meet the National Archives Standard BS 5454 - which lays out the recommendations for the storage and exhibition of archival documents of national significance. These recommendations stipulate temperature, air-tightness, humidity, lighting, air-conditioning and fire regulations, over and above standard warehouse storage requirements. 

The realisation of the building follows Scott Brownrigg’s initial engagement to provide site feasibility reviews and masterplans for a number of sites within 50 miles of Oxford.  These studies also explored the potential for phased development on each site to meet the university’s future accommodation requirements.  Following this study Oxford University purchased a preferred site and the design team successfully achieved planning permission in August 2009. 

The new facility will allow the refurbishment of the New Bodleian Library in Oxford to proceed, by providing accommodation for items currently held within its stack.

The ground breaking ceremony took place in September 2009 and the building has been completed in record time by Mace Plus.  The transfer of selected collections from some of the Bodleian’s book stacks in Oxford will start in November 2010.

 For more information please contact Kelly Foster the Project Architect at Scott Brownrigg on 020 7240 7766.

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