NG Bailey has completed and handed over the paper archive area of Manchester Central Library – marking a key technical milestone in the ambitious transformation of Manchester’s Town Hall Extension and Central Library.
Hundreds of the library’s most historical paper documents have been returned to the archive, following the extensive work to refurbish the lower ground floor archive area as part of Manchester City Council’s project to transform the Grade II* listed buildings.
This comes as the company completes a full scope of mechanical and electrical services, working alongside main contractor Laing O’Rourke, as part of the three-year construction project to transform the buildings, opening up more of the space to the public than ever before, and improving services while also restoring key heritage features.
The renovation of the paper storage rooms was a particularly important part of the project, to preserve the library’s most valuable paper archives in environmental conditions meeting National Archives standards while reducing the carbon footprint, fuel and other operating costs. It involved installing powered racking for the books, pamphlets and other documents, as well as stringent heating and lighting controls.
Mike Darlington, managing director of NG Bailey’s Engineering division, said: “This project has been a real opportunity to use our expertise installing state-of-the-art, 21st century services, into a preserved Grade II* listed building.
“It has also been an exciting challenge to meet the standards required as the building is listed. We had to work really hard to install the modern facilities and air conditioning within an existing fabric that couldn’t be touched. Our design and construction teams worked extremely closely with the client and English Heritage to achieve the results.
“Alongside this we had to control the humidity of an area with floors made out of concrete – so securing a stable environment with such a porous material was a big achievement for us.”
Councillor Rosa Battle, Executive Member for Culture and Leisure for Manchester City Council, said: “From floor to ceiling to its state-of-the-art facilities, the transformation of Manchester Central Library has been all about painstaking attention to detail. The enthusiastic reactions show that Central Library is a spectacular asset for the city.”
The key to achieving this in the storage rooms was to steadily bring temperature and humidity down to stable conditions at the agreed set points, which took the team three months to achieve.
The conditions in the rooms are being controlled using a sophisticated Building Management System (BMS), allowing the Manchester City Council team to monitor and watch conditions at a minute level and spot any potentially damaging environmental changes as soon as they occur.
Now complete, the transformed Town Hall Extension and Central Library has provided a bright and spacious ground floor, which was previously closed to the public, into a light and airy space with a cafe, performance area and film booths. There is also a specialist search room where staff can help readers to access some of the library’s most historic and valuable works, which are stored in the climate-controlled book depositories on the lower floor.
More than 2,000 people passed through the doors of the St Peter’s Square landmark in the first three hours after it reopened.