The Library at the Dock. Emma Cross Photography, supplied by Lend Lease.

28 May 2014 — The Library at the Dock is set to become Melbourne’s most sustainable civic landmark and one of Australia’s most sustainable public buildings, according to the developers.

The three-storey, 55-metre-long, 3000 square metre library at Docklands, which opens this Saturday, just received a 6 Star Green Star public building rating – the first in Australia – and has been constructed using masses of cross laminated timber and recycled hardwood.

The project has been delivered through a unique tri-partnership between the City of Melbourne, Lend Lease and the state government through Places Victoria, with architecture by Clare Design.

Claire Johnston, Lend Lease’s project director, Victoria Harbour, said it was the first civic building in Australia to be constructed with cross laminated timber.

“We are very proud of it,” Ms Johnston told The Fifth Estate.

She said Lend Lease was looking to expand its use of CLT, after cementing (no pun intended) its leadership role in CLT construction with the residential Forté tower, also in Docklands.

“[CLT] brings a huge range of benefits, both in terms of end user experience, and during design and construction,” Ms Johnston said.

For construction, CLT proved to be beneficial due to its light weight, being quiet to build with, and because the prefabricated offsite production method led to fast builds and increased worker safety.

Construction was able to take place just eight metres from the waterfront due to the light weight of CLT – around 30 per cent lighter than traditional materials – using the existing 75-year-old wharf as the substructure.

Using CLT, however, necessitated final design to be completed early in the process. With a traditional build, Ms Johnston said, there was the ability to make design decisions on site and change aspects as you went along. Because of the nature of building with CLT, where you have to erect the structure in sequence, a fully resolved design was needed before construction began.

There’s more efficiency in the process, but less room to move, she said.

There has also been issues flagged with CLT around acoustics, which for a library environment take on added importance.

“By incorporating other material claddings, such as timber and fibre cement sheets on the library, with transitional air cavities, the performance of the CLT composite floor rivals that of much heavier structural systems,” Ms Johnston said. “This allowed for standard fitout construction methods to be used for the Library at the Dock as would be for a conventional building. In addition, rigorous testing was undertaken in a laboratory prior to delivery to site to verify that stringent criteria for both airborne and footfall sound insulation would be achieved.”

Emma Cross Photography, supplied by Lend Lease.

Sustainability features

From an investor point of view using CLT makes sense for Lend Lease, however Ms Johnston said timber finishes also looked great, produced a sense of warmth for occupants and had numerous sustainability benefits.

She said clients were now actively looking for sustainability to be embedded into design and construction, and being able to do so through sustainably sourced CLT was a win for everyone.

CLT offsets CO2 that would be used through building with concrete and steel, and also sequesters close to a tonne of CO2 in every cubic metre.

The Docklands library uses around 1000 tonnes of European Spruce CLT.

According to City of Melbourne manager design Ian Winter, the high precision engineering of CLT means that “when it arrives on site there is zero waste because everything has been cut to the last millimetre”.

In typical builds, he said, invariably there would be offcuts and materials no one could do anything with, meaning it is recycled at an expense or sent to landfill.

On top of the building materials, Library at the Dock incorporates passive design features to minimise energy use.

Full-height glazing on the first floor maximises natural light, and the building is designed to be passively ventilated in many areas, reducing energy use and providing a high indoor air quality. Ms Johnston said there was still mechanical ventilation to protect library assets, as books needed certain temperature and humidity levels to prolong life.

The building has an 85-kilowatt solar PV system on the roof, which is predicted to supply 30 per cent of the building’s energy needs. Low volatile organic compound and low formaldehyde materials have been used throughout, and a 55,000-litre rain tank collects water from the roof to be reused in the building.

The building also features a range of recycled materials. On the top level, large 100-year-old Ironbark timber beams have been reclaimed from a demolished bridge in Brisbane. Part of the nearby Victoria Harbour south wharf, which had to be demolished, uncovered a large supply of Ironbark and Tallowwood that now make up the library’s facade.

All the usual sustainability suspects, such as LED lighting and water-efficient fixtures, will be used too.

Emma Cross Photography, supplied by Lend Lease

Lessons learned from Forté

Ms Johnston said Lend Lease had learnt “massive lessons” from its first onsite CLT construction experience with Forté, in terms of scheduling, shipping methods, procurement, storage and onsite construction technique.

The construction methodology developed during Forté was “a huge learning experience”, which had now led to more efficient building delivery.

Because the library is Australia’s first civic building made of CLT, she said the company also looked to Europe for learning, where there is a number of CLT buildings.

Social sustainability

Mr Winter said that for City of Melbourne, the social sustainability achievements of the library were key.

He said City of Melbourne wanted to bring the community together and create the “social heart of Docklands” – a “public living room”. This meeting point was important to the development of a sustainable community, particularly for an area like Docklands, which is often criticised for being a collection of discrete buildings with no community or social focus.

The library aims to be more than a typical library too, with one the goals being to develop a building that is attractive to all forms of the community, and to explore and develop interests together.

“The most important feature is that its not just a library,” Mr Winter said.

There will be a number of offers in the space, not simply a portal to pick up a book or a DVD, he said.

Spaces in the library include a performance space, a technology and media hub, reading lounges, community meeting rooms, heritage and art exhibitions and quiet study areas.

“It will support the community in what their needs and wants are,” Mr Winter said.

Emma Cross Photography, supplied by Lend Lease


Heritage also plays a significant role, with the building helping the community to “understand the nature of the place it resides”, from Indigenous through to contemporary times.

The area has a rich history. Dating back to 8000BC, the area was a wetlands, considered a meeting place and hunting ground for several Aboriginal communities, including the Wurundjeri, the Boonerwrung, Taungurong, Djadja Wurrung and the Wathaurong tribes.

During the gold rush in the early 1850s, Victoria Dock was created to meet the demands of mass migration. When in the 1960s huge containers replaced bales and crates to transport goods, the Docklands’ wharves could not accommodate the containers and ceased to be the city’s economic and maritime hub.

The heritage will be explored and celebrated through exhibitions telling the Docklands story: past, present and future.

While the library will hold a lot of heritage information on site, it has the capacity to do more research, Mr Winter said.

The library services team are particularly interested in the rich oral history held on the area by the community, and is encouraging people to come to the library and open up this type of privately held information.

Emma Cross Photography, supplied by Lend Lease

The partnership approach

The partnership approach taken for the Docklands library has been a success, according to those involved.

Ms Johnston said the partnership reflected a shared vision by all stakeholders to create “a civic building of prominence”, with all parties recognising “a common goal to deliver high quality space for the community”.

She said the partners all brought different skill sets to the table to deliver a building that could not have been done by any individual actor.

“The value of partnership has been very critical to the outcome,” she said.

On top of this, she was excited by all partners’ willingness to explore a new material in CLT, which she hoped would further the use of the product in the Australian market.

She said the partners were “bold and brave”, and through their courage had delivered an outstanding public building for Docklands and Australia.

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  1. Congratulations to the project team! It can often be rare to see such innovation for public buildings. Strange/ironic, because public buildings (such as libraries and working hubs) are often the source of future innovation and learning. It becomes an important ‘innovation loop’.

    I thoroughly enjoyed my time exploring the Forte project and hope to explore this in greater detail soon.

    In relation to an earlier comment – I, for one, am encouraged by the lack of plants within the space. It is too often that we are seeing plants within spaces prophesying “bad science” or without any purpose. Our positive psychological response to plants needs to be balanced with our physiological response to a higher microbial indoor environment

  2. There’s a whole new park created next to the building, come and have a look.

    There is no question this is state of the art sustainability for community buildings. The structure was produced through photosynthesis and has locked in a significant amount if carbon, as well as offsetting that which would have otherwise been emitted if a conventional structure had been used.

    Very proud to be at the opening today. This building and park will provide enjoyment, education, inspiration and a great place to be, for the community.

  3. I had a peek in this building yesterday and it is beautiful. The timber gives it a wonderful warmth and there are so many innovative features. I think the community will really love this space.

    Hopefully we start to see more CLT construction in Australia. They have been doing it for years in Europe, so it is nice to see City of Melbourne taking a leadership role in this area.

  4. How is this sustainable when there is not a single plant in sight?
    Like so many buildings that clam a high ESD, and despite the rhetoric it is another dead pixel on the photosensitive sensor that is the planet.

    Technological infrastructure alone is not enough.

    It could have been the first building in the world with a tidal air garden