Ted Dews is director of the central services office, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Judith Clark is manager of information services at the Cairns campus of James Cook University; he can be reached at email@example.com.
James Cook University has just occupied a new library building on its campus at Cairns, in North Queensland, Australia. Cairns is a regional coastal city 350km north of the parent campus and located at latitude 17 degrees south of the equator. It has a wet tropical environment, and the campus is surrounded on two sides by virgin tropical rainforest. The Cairns campus opened in 1996 and now has a student population of 3,000, with steady increases expected. The new building replaces a temporary library installation in one of the first buildings. At 6,600 square metres (70,600 square feet) it is the largest building on the campus and, because of its central importance, extra attention was given to the architecture. The whole project cost A$12.7 million, of which the building and associated consultants fees cost A$10 million.
The region served by JCU has the lowest tertiary participation rate in the state of Queensland. The catchment area covers many isolated rural settlements and small remote and island communities. To address the special needs of an exceptionally diverse student population presents specific challenges in facilities management. To fulfill its central role on campus, the building has to more than stand out, it must provide a welcoming environment that is in every way explicit about its function and purpose. It has to be a place that students want to use and like to come to. The building also has to serve the changing roles of librarians. Increasingly they are partners in the academic process, and as electronic technologies make it possible for those processes to take place "any time, anywhere," information services extend beyond the walls of the library building. Choices made in library facilities design and fit out are fundamental to how well the university achieves its goals in teaching, learning, and research.
In the last few years it has become ever more difficult to plan a library building that will continue to remain relevant in the university for years to come. The days are gone of planning a library building on the basis of projections for collection growth and student population. The challenge now is to build for an unknown future. At Cairns, we recognized a need for a different type of library building, one that addresses the changes resulting from technology-driven innovation in teaching. We also recognized that libraries to a greater or lesser extent play an important social role. In the context of the Cairns campus, this new building had to make a strong contribution toward building a sense of academic community and establishing a culture of learning.
The new library is designed on a learning center model. A learning center is commonly understood to be a dedicated facility for self-paced study and learning, providing state-of-the-art technology and a place where people can study together without interruption. The new building in Cairns combines the learning center approach with more traditional aspects of the university library. It houses resource collections, help desk and reference services, general computing facilities, the central network communications hub for the campus, training rooms, assistive technologies for students with disabilities, and an Internet cafŽ. Study skills staff, student equity, information technology, and audiovisual functions for the campus are provided from this building.
The building comprises three stories, is fully airconditioned, and is supported from a central campus plant room with ice storage for electrical load shifting and hygroscopic heat wheels for heat (cold) recovery from expelled air. Refrigerant heat pump systems are used to provide heating for the purposes of dehumidifying the incoming ventilation air. With carefully designed shading of external walls and roof insulation and double-skin construction where appropriate, the whole facility is very "energy efficient." Glazing is green tinted. A number of other features mentioned below add to this efficiency.
The primary structure is concrete, cast in-situ, with post-tensioned floor slabs specified to a load-level suitable for compact shelving. The post-tension design solution was offered by the builder, and saved both cost and time in construction.
Because of the tropical climate no heating (other than for humidity control) is required. Cooling is required year round with set points at 23¼C during the day and 26¼ at night. Air conditioning ducting has external insulation to minimize condensation. Occupancy sensing adjusts set points when spaces are unoccupied. In appropriate areas lighting is similarly controlled, and there are also programmable controllers to take account of natural light available at various times of the day. Acoustic control is achieved through careful selection of surface materials and window seals.
The building is entered via a striking foyer atrium, but the scale of this space is tempered by a sense of order. The reception counter is clearly visible, despite the combined services desk being set well back so as not to intimidate the first-time visitor. Strong, bright colors (tangerine and royal blue) complemented by track lighting draw attention to the services counter and are in keeping with its purpose. Cream and mint walls are interposed throughout the rest of the building to give a light, calm, and fresh feeling to what could easily have been overly homogenous and rectangular expanses. On each floor, ceiling-mounted monitors serve as an electronic billboard, presenting details of new s services and promoting events and activities on campus.
Behind the service counters are open-plan staff workrooms with modular office furniture, and multi-task work tables at varying heights. There is plenty of additional room so that trolleys of books or equipment can be moved about easily. Staff enjoy a high level of natural light and stunning views of the rainforestÑin some aspects this is a canopy view that is quite unusual and conducive to viewing the wildlife.
An important workplace design goal was to break down functional barriers and bring diverse parts of the organization into closer contact. Work groups in this building are not strictly functional but are "mixed neighborhoods," co-locating people with different professional backgrounds. This was a deliberate arrangement chosen in the expectation that better integration of services would result.
Workplace health and safety consultants reviewed routine work flow associated with the library services, and their recommendations were followed in the document services workroom fit out. Capital project funding was used to purchase the latest materials flow equipment and a self-checkout unit to supplement the borrowing services provided over the counter.
The library staff provide instruction about multimedia information resources' their use and management, their integration into teaching programs, and their evaluation. This new building has a number of well-equipped training rooms for this purpose. There is growing demand for a full-service environment where new resources can be assembled, produced, and created. The IT infrastructure for this building was designed to cater for an increase in use of all types of multimedia. The training labs are equipped with videoconferencing systems and furnished so that they can be adapted to a variety of teaching and learning activities
In assessing the performance of a building a key factor, important for both comfort and productivity, is spatial and work station design. In the higher education sector, library users are required to spend ever more of their time using computers and other electronic equipment. It is more important than ever that study and learning areas are comfortable and that there are appropriate spaces for collaboration and for relaxation. In the computer areas we allowed space for interaction between students and extra chairs. It is common to see two or three chairs pulled up at the one screen.
On each level of this building there are clusters of computer workstations, areas with tables in varying configurations, library carrels, and lounge areas. Phone, power, and data connections can be provided almost anywhere, via skirting ducting, specially designed floor penetrations, or power columns. The same style of modular office furniture was used in both public and staff-only areas. Depending on the configuration, this furniture can be either soft- or hard-wired. As information technology further affects the way people work and learn, this furniture can be easily reconfigured for different tasks and functions.
The book stacks are laid out to frame views of the surrounding hills and are used to create different types of work zones. Separate group study areas help to isolate noise, but glass internal walls were selected for these rooms to help to integrate activities. The great strength of a multi-use facility, and the success of this building, is that with good design, an atmosphere of vitality and enterprise develops naturally.
The IT infrastructure was an integral part of building design from the start of the project. The communications network was planned to scale easily as demand grows and to cater for a variety of uses. The IT solution developed in partnership with a selected Large Account Reseller (LAR) was based on a Storage Area Network (SAN) that can be added to in the foreseeable future. The initial investment in IT cost just under 10 percent of the total capital project costs. It leaves the campus well placed to move to wireless communication, digital multimedia broadcasting, client-server architecture, or personal portable computing over the next few years. What we can never plan for is just how IT will change educational processes and the impact this will have on libraries, learning, and support services.
On this project, the marriage between architectural design concepts and the librarian's need for functionality was the key to its success. The original design brief prepared by the campus librarian described a building that was to be more a workshop than a warehouse, with the emphasis on service delivery rather than the collection of books and other materials. All libraries seek to maximize access to their local collections, but more important in this case was the provision of spaces and facilities to accommodate a wide range of activities involving interaction with ideas and information. It is perhaps natural that a remote branch library with a small collection would have developed a strong service ethic aimed at widening access to information resources.
The project was completed to time and to budget, with the construction phase being 44 weeks. The contractor had targeted a significantly shorter period for building and probably would have achieved it had not two key subcontractors failed to perform as expected. The contractor was disappointed although we were happy that our timetable had been met.
How Did We Go About It?
When it was clear that our top priority project, the library, would be funded, it was decided it would be designed to facilitate the use of the best contemporary technologies for teaching and learning. Following the APPA annual meeting at Salt Lake City in 1996, the writers toured a number of major North American institutions reputed to have facilities of the kind that we were envisaging. This trip proved to be extremely valuable and enabled the later planning decisions to be made with much more confidence than would otherwise have been the case.
With this basic vision, we established the broad program for the project. A key element of the programming was that once started the process should be continuous and under some pressure. There would be no time to continually revisit issues or for major changes of philosophy once decided. Since one of the key components of a successful project is a clear and comprehensive brief for the designing consultants, its preparation and adoption was the first major task. This was undertaken in house, using the university's standard model brief for major buildings as the starting point.
Queensland State law requires that its state universities, of which we are one, engage in a competitive process for the selection and appointment of consultants and contractors. We had already decided that we would use a conventional delivery process, that is full design and documentation before proceeding to seek bids for construction. We have our own selection criteria for both consultants and builders, and in the case of the former as well as relevant experience and a good track record, we require a high level of local input through demonstrated permanent establishment of substance in the city. We also have our own conditions of engagement that require the consultant to agree to meet our budget, to our standards and to provide as a minimum the amount of space identified in the brief, which also includes some efficiency targets. This requirement tends to focus the minds of the consultants as if the tendered prices exceed the budget, redesign is at their cost, unless of course we have imposed a significant variation. While a high degree of liaison with all user groups is required of the consultants, all instructions that might involve any variation from the brief must be through the director of central services. Variations undertaken outside of this policy are likely to be at the cost of the consultant. We require also that the architect be the principal consultant and hire all secondary consultants to our approval. They were also required to meet our nominated program.
The selection criteria and the conditions of engagement, plus the designer's brief, were provided to all consultants who expressed interest in the project. They were required to address them all in their bid submissions.
A small selection committee with local community technical expertise as well as business representation worked with university property staff to interview a short list of bidders and assess the candidates according to the established criteria. A local Cairns firm was appointed. This process, from advertisement to appointment took about six weeks.
The design process was monitored fortnightly by a project planning committee comprising user representatives, property section representatives and the consultants as appropriate to the stage of the work. This committee was chaired by the director of central services. It reported in formal terms at predetermined points along the way to the University Buildings and Grounds Committee. At each key point in the process the users were required to confirm that they were satisfied with the design and with the inevitable compromises that were necessary. The budget was also closely monitored at all times. Changes were made if budgets were being exceeded. This process continued until documentation was completed.
The University Council, the governing body, approved the plans at developed sketch plan stage (the only time they go before the council unless material changes are made). This was carefully timed so that work was not delayed. With a track record of no changes ever having been made at the council, the author took the risk and proceeded with the documentation work while this approval was being obtained.
As soon as the preparatory site works and foundation details were finalised a contract was awarded for construction of this part of the work. This gave the main building contractor a clean start with all underground main services in place.
As the documentation approached its conclusion the process of preparing to obtain bids for construction was started through publicly advertised invitations to apply for registration as a bidder. Once accepted through this process, the lowest conforming bidder should be awarded the job. As soon as the documents were completed they were distributed to the registered bidders and they were invited to submit a bid.
The eight bids received were very competitive. Some adjustments of a relatively minor nature were needed to ensure compliance with the budget. These were negotiated and the contract was awarded.
Contract progress was monitored by the project control group on a monthly basis. This received reports from consultants and contractors and identified any issues that might delay the work with a view to expediting their resolution. Although named a control group it was essentially a liaison group. All job instructions to the contractor followed the procedure nominated in the building contract. The director of central services visited Cairns and met the architects on a bi-weekly basis for detailed progress reports. Site supervision was by the consultants and reinforced by a full-time clerk of works employed by the university.
Overall, project progression was smooth and harmonious. A good performance indicator is the duration and frequency of control group meetings. There were no extra meetings scheduled and few exceeded 30 minutes duration. In our process, commissioning of the building services forms part of the construction contract and is supervised by the consultants as part of their commission. This was included in the 44 weeks.
During the final months of the contract university staff prepared loose furniture and equipment schedules and arranged the necessary purchases. From appointment of the first consultants to building occupation was 23 months.
This was in fact a fairly routine process and one that is frequently but not exclusively used in this part of the world. Its success in our case rests on the agreements with the consultants, the adequacy of the brief, and on being good clients with a good team that made prompt decisions and stood by them. We handled all internal processing expeditiously.
Facilities management issues such as building location, servicing, layout, security, and access can have a fundamental effect on the quality of services delivered and can also act as a catalyst to change. The way that buildings and environments are designed can enhance or inhibit workplace learning through influencing the morale, values and relationships within the organization. This project gave us the opportunity to reconsider the role of the library and other support services on campus in the context of detail planning for the new facility. There is no doubt that involving employees and building users in parts of the process has lead to greater integration of people, technology and support services. Running this process in parallel with a well- controlled building program has resulted in a facility that is a success from all perspectives.