Surry Hills Library
Sydney, New South Wales
It’s a surprise when you encounter the Surry Hills Library in the inner-city Sydney suburb, a leafy alcove on the city’s edge. The main group of shops on Crown Street includes a trendy array of cafes, restaurants, bars, fashion, and design-oriented retailers. Most of these boast historic façades.
The three-story library, however, is the most contemporary of structures – a 6-star Green Star edifice whose most striking feature is its high-performance façade. And it sits amid the shops, one side abutting a small public square.
Working closely with fjmt on the library’s design, consulting firm Steensen Varming developed the mechanical, ESD, electrical and lighting designs for the building, winning the 2010 AIRAH Award for Excellence in Sustainability for their efforts.
Steensen Varming director Chris Arkins, M.AIRAH, likens the process of developing the library’s ultimate design to that of a DNA string of ideas, where one leads to another, and another, while all remaining intrinsically linked.
“Even though the overall system works collectively in its use of passive, active and organic elements to provide an improved condition and quality of air to the interior,” Arkins says, “the component parts are all interesting in their own way.”
Air for the building’s interior enters at roof level, where a green roof has been planted to provide a level of insulation.
“The intake is protected from ingress of rain, integrates the first stage of particulate filtration and naturally tempers the air as it flows across a water-to-air heat exchanger coupled to five geothermal bores, which draw energy from the earth to heat cold air or cool hot air as required,” Arkins says.
From the top of the building, this tempered air is then drawn down the southern double façade, made up of seven glass-enclosed shafts, which help cocoon the building from the outside while maintaining transparency – an important element of the building’s aesthetic.
The next stage of air “conditioning” is more conventional, with a further fine grade of air filtration added, as well as in-line fans used to drive the air.
Energy used here is offset by a roof-mounted 4.725kW photovoltaic array.
Upon reaching the basement of the building, the air is directed through a thermal labyrinth, a naturally occurring chasm resulting from the cavity created between the dry wall of the building and the face of the adjoining bedrock.
“Our concepts are founded on the principles of bio-mimicry, where buildings and systems emulate nature to provide suitable environments or structures in a sustainable way,” Arkins says.
“It’s not like we’ve thrown ideas on and then the architecture has to mould around these ideas. A lot of these opportunities were already there; it’s just a matter of identifying a better use for these sorts of spaces and systems in the building.”