Does it Fit? Transforming a Heat and Power Plant into a Library Building

by Anette Franzkowiak


The building under consideration for conversion to alternative use was originally a heat and power plant built in the early twentieth century. It was partially dismantled during the 1960s and extended so that the local university, Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH), could use it for teaching technical and engineering subjects.

The building has now become available for re-use. Is it possible to convert the building into a library space? Can a building originally constructed as a heat and power plant be re-purposed as a library? A glimpse of the initial planning and thinking is provided.

Heat & Power plant
The Heat and Power Plant with its chimney and an extension completed in the sixties
Interior Hall
Interior of one part of the hall, closed because of contamination, to be removed before re-use









Does it Fit?

The Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB) is the German National Library of Science and Technology and as such takes responsibility for collecting materials for all areas of engineering, as well as architecture, chemistry, information technology, mathematics and physics; it is also the University Library for Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH). As a national specialized library, it plays a significant role in the national information and research infrastructure of Germany.

TIB’s main site is in the immediate vicinity of the Main Building of LUH. Other branches of the Library are located elsewhere on the campus and on the southern edge of Hannover. The University has restructured and the building known as the former Heat and Power Plant has been made available for re-use as the TIB’s main site. TIB can use the building to combine two specialist branch libraries and the University Archives into one building, providing significant operational advantages.

The Heat and Power Plant building contains various installations undertaken over the years for experimental facilities for the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. The building features several smaller rooms which contained workshops, seminar rooms and offices up until the time the building was vacated.

How can the existing building’s capacity for library use be tested? Will the Heat and Power Plant fit with the spaces required for use as a library building?

Basic Steps to Support the Design Process

The first step, as always, involves establishing the basics: analysing the situation, formulating objectives, identifying space requirements and developing desired outcomes. The space allocation plan must be subsequently developed, outlining the space needs. The next step relates to preparing a list of functions for the spaces, and assigning the functions to spaces, rooms and areas. Depending on the complexity of the relationships and links between the functions, it may be easier to combine rooms and spaces that belong together in terms of their content or function into clusters to illustrate relationships and to test the fit of the existing building for new purposes.

The aim of the preliminary investigation is to ascertain whether the areas identified can be mapped in real size into the existing building without considering at this stage potential design impacts. Even so, consideration must be given to some other aspects, such as the existing fabric, physical structure and positioning of the building, and any special features in terms of cubature and visual impact.

The Requirements

To determine area and space requirements, the necessary input variables must first be identified and defined. The known input variables will be: areas for users and reading desks, media collections and human resources. There will be differences in the emphasis placed on each and the aspects to be considered depending on the library’s remit, objectives, services provided, user base and existing collections.

In some instances, the spaces assigned to the various input variables will accord with applicable norms and standards, e.g. a specific space allocation for office space or library staff use. Additional prerequisites, such as people circulation areas and space for technical facilities, can be added to the space requirements as a percentage of other uses.

An initial comparison can then be made of the space required with the space available in the facility being considered, revealing the possibilities for re-use which the building under consideration offers. Knowledge gained from an analysis of the existing physical structure and building-related specifications are also included in the consideration. For example, in this example, it had been determined that the hall of the former heat and power plant could be used as an open library space. The potential design of additional levels with air space was also included in the area balance in this step to facilitate potential later consideration of the space as a continuum.

Room Schedule and Diagram of Functions

The next planning step is to prepare the room schedule and space allocation plan. Rooms, groups of rooms, areas or clusters are listed with their functionality and different types of use. The relationships of areas regarding activity and potential traffic routes and access possibilities can be highlighted in the arrangement of areas within the plan. The network of links between areas on the diagram of functions reveals details of direct and indirect connections, highlights relationships between the functional areas and outlines access and security requirements.

Diagram functions
Diagram of functions

The diagram of functions reveals in a simple way relationships between the different areas. There may also be formal institutional criteria to be observed for particulate types of use, such as human resources and office space. Access authorization criteria should also be indicated, taking into account the flow and traffic of people and collections. Where are the entrances to be positioned? Which areas are open to the public? Which are open to the public with access control? And which areas are closed to the public?

Layout, Clusters and Floor Plans

The next stage involves examining how the requirements of the space allocation plan can be mapped into the building being considered for conversion. This is where the complexity of the task comes to light and issues to be anticipated in the later design stage are identified. As already indicated, it makes sense to form clusters of space requirements at this stage and to allocate space generously rather than to define areas narrowly which might later need substantial change. Clusters are formed based on substantive connections between functions or activities and are placed in relation to the access conditions known at that point. As already noted, they include a proportionate amount of space for ancillary purposes, technical facilities and people circulation.

Ground floor plan
Grand floor plan of the existing building with coloured areas indicating possible clusters for potential future use

An initial comparison of the total amount of existing space and the projected areas required reveals the available possibilities. In the next step, the various areas – or clusters in this case – are assigned to the existing floor space true to scale. In addition to the functions and the network of relationships and access routes, the position and context of the building, potential future developments, the three-dimensional cubature and current spatial qualities influence the distribution of clusters and areas within the existing building. A jigsaw puzzle of “coloured” areas is produced, as well as alternative distributions of space to be considered with regard to their advantages and disadvantages. It is recommended that alternatives are drawn up in a parallel process, so that they can be examined if necessary at later stages in  the design phase.

Yes – It Will Fit!

By following the process outlined, it has become clear in the case of the Heat and Power Plant at the Leibniz Universität Hannover (LUH), how future use of the building as a library might be undertaken. The space continuum of the plant with a suspended level and the smaller structured areas offer huge potential for various working atmospheres and inspirational spaces for library use. It is hoped that some elements of the plant might be retained to indicate the former use of the building. In addition, combining office space previously located in separate areas within the Library, the Archives, and Research and Development on floors above each other, has the potential for creating a centralised and harmonised support structure with the capacity to operate effectively and efficiently to achieve organizational goals.

Author details

Anette Franzkowiak has been Building Consultant at the Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB) since 2001 and responsible for various building projects for the five sites of the TIB. Anette first studied librarianship and worked as a librarian for several years. She then studied architecture and undertook work as an architect on several projects as well as working freelance. She is a member of the Architektenkammer Niedersachsen and was a  lecturer in library architecture at the Hochschule Hannover (University of Applied Sciences and Arts). Anette is a member of the Standing Committee of the IFLA Library Buildings and Equipment Section.

Acknowledgements: Photographs taken by Anette Franzkowiak.



One thought on “Does it Fit? Transforming a Heat and Power Plant into a Library Building

  1. Santi Romero March 29, 2017 / 1:16 pm

    Congratulationn for the article


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