When setting out to create the first library in Europe to be jointly commissioned by a university and a local authority, the University of Worcester and Worcestershire County Council wanted the building itself to be as forward-thinking as the idea behind it.
The compelling sustainability credentials of timber – and its suitability for creating striking architectural forms – made it the obvious choice, and the end result does not disappoint. The Wood Awards called the roof of the Hive ‘one of the most outstanding timber structures to be completed in the UK so far’.
Seven structurally independent pyramid-shaped sections comprise the roof, a reference to the kilns of the Royal Worcester pottery that was once a prominent feature of the city’s skyline.
The advanced, computer-modelled design allows the solid laminated timber form to meet structural and environmental parameters while providing optimal light and natural ventilation to the space it encloses.
Spanning more than 25 metres, the largest section of the roof was achieved thanks to the development of an entirely new system which combines glue-laminated timber beams and cross-laminated timber panels. Because the two materials came from different suppliers, careful project planning was required to ensure the parts fit together perfectly and that installation ran smoothly.
Internally, the exposed timber under-sides of the pyramids create a series of distinct areas across the main library floor, while a silent reading room has been built into one of the cones at a higher level, creating an inspiring space with inclined timer walls and a roof light that gives a spectacular view.
Sustainability was forefront in the minds of the client and it was important to minimise the carbon footprint of The Hive.
The low U-values of timber and use of precision engineering to achieve a good level of airtightness meant the building achieved an ‘Excellent’ rating from BREEAM. Hot water for the hive is provided by locally sourced biomass to keep the environmental impact of the building’s on-going use to a minimum – it will produce just 17kg of CO2 per year while in use.
This is only one half of the carbon footprint equation for a building, however, the other being its embodied carbon – those emissions associated with the production of building materials and the construction work. Using timber rather than concrete and steel reduced this figure by an impressive 2,000 tonnes.
The Hive is a superb example of the capacity timber has as a construction material to deliver landmark buildings that are of outstanding architectural interest and beauty while being straightforward to construct and having minimal environmental impact.