To Flex or Not to Flex? And How to Flex?

by Denelle Wrightson

Overview

Modern libraries are asked to be many things to many people many times each day. While space needs for collections have remained static or decreased, the need for areas of varying sizes for events, programs, meetings, collaboration and creating content has exploded.

Spaces of different sizes are required to accommodate:

  • Large community meetings and events programmed for up to 300 people and held a few times each year
  • Weekly programs for 30 – 50 children or adults and special events for 100 or more
  • Alternative uses of spaces intended for events and programs when none is being held
  • Diverse user behaviour and the need for collaborative and quiet spaces
  • Speedy transformations to suit a variety of purposes

Flexible Spaces can be Greener and Less Expensive

In addition to providing for a variety of uses, flexible spaces have other advantages. They support aims of greater sustainability and are usually less costly and faster to build and maintain than spaces with solid walls. For example, a design for a meeting space that includes three separate rooms for meetings of 50, 100, or up to 300 participants would require approximately 5,000 square feet (465 square metres). A project like this would typically cost about US$250 per square foot (approx.US$2325 per square metre), or US $1,250,000 for the total project.

In contrast, one large divisible room for 300 would take 3,200 square feet (297.3 square metres) of space. Assuming the use of the highest performance and cost of movable walls to allow the room to be easily divided three ways into alternative configurations, the cost would be US$1,000,000. Reducing the size has a very positive impact by lowering the footprint required for the building and its overall cost. At the same time, the environmental impact would be less with a more efficient use of the site, lower demand for building materials and reduced energy consumption. Movable walls can be introduced into existing or new spaces.

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