When the City of Wichita decided to build a new public library, the owner didn’t want a sedate structure that faded into the background. City officials wanted a modern, sustainable facility that would engage the community and offer a “wow factor” for anyone passing by.
Precast concrete offered the flexibility and performance to meet those goals. “From an aesthetic standpoint, precast concrete was the star of the show on this project,” says Dirk McClure, director of business development for Enterprise Precast Concrete.
The use of precast concrete also helped the owners meet the tight $30 million budget and 18-month schedule for construction. “Precast concrete was a significant contributor to achieving both of those targets,” McClure says.
The building’s design features a collection of three curved tubes that end with exterior glass walls facing the scenic Arkansas River. A grid pattern of pronounced precast concrete bump outs complemented by a curving “wave” design on the other facades creates a striking solution that draws people into the library.
The multifaceted precast concrete exterior was created using custom coloring to resemble the appearance of granite. To achieve the look, three different mix designs were used along with a combination of acid-etched, sandblasted, and retarder finishes. Mica chips were added to lend additional sparkle, and contrasting terracotta prefinished metal panels and trim were used as accents.
“The resulting exterior surfaces are durable and will require little maintenance,” McClure says. “Large glass curtain wall systems provide the separation of forms and natural light.”
The building’s vast wall of windows invites visitors to take in the library’s collection of more than 300,000 high-demand volumes, which are displayed in open stacks across the library floor. “Precast concrete and the steel frame enabled that open floor plan,” McClure says. Another 220,000 volumes are stored in high-density storage rooms on a lower floor.
The library also features several sustainable elements, including highly insulated precast concrete walls and roof, LED lighting, smart faucets, native plants, and a design that maximizes natural light. Fly ash was specified in the mix design to increase the recycled content.
Outside, the building spills out to an exterior terrace that offer views of the river and downtown Wichita, with large pervious concrete pavements to absorb the rain. An additional turf area was created for outdoor movie screenings, which are cast onto large precast concrete wall panels.
“The primary design intent of the owner was to design an iconic library structure with exterior materials that would be timeless and durable, and require low maintenance,” McClure says. By employing precast concrete, the designer was able to meet all of those goals with a structure that will be used for generations.