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February 24, 2018

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Library News Release

Release Date: 01/21/2005

Seattle's Central Library receives engineering and technology excellence awards

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The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Washington has recognized the dramatic steel and glass Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., for excellence in engineering and technology.

The Seattle Public Library and structural engineering firm Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA) received the ACEC of Washington's 2005 Platinum Award for developing "structural solutions" that were implemented in the library.

The Seattle Public Library and the electrical engineering and technical consulting firm Sparling won a 2005 Gold Award by ACEC of Washington for the Central Library's technology systems.

The architecture of the Central Library is a marked departure from the typical symmetrically stacked high-rise. It includes 11 levels that span five main "platforms" or levels that are designed for primary library functions. Between the platforms are areas that appear to float. These in-between spaces house public uses, such as a children's room and a socially interactive space called the Living Room. The library structure is encased in a skin of steel and glass. Steel grids support the glass between the "floating platforms."

In presenting the Platinum Award, the ACEC of Washington said the MKA engineers were given a difficult set of instructions: "Use no columns in the corners, no vertical columns and as few columns as possible. In other words, the project's success depended on making an 11-level, all glass building in earthquake country appear to 'float' without support."

The challenge required the invention of new kinds of structural systems. Two separate, layered structural systems were developed by MKA, who worked with Arup during schematics. Multi-story-deep perimeter platform trusses supported by carefully positioned sloping columns that maximize counterbalancing opportunities carry the building's gravity loads. The platforms cantilever as much as 52 feet and in some cases, are cantilevered on all four sides.

The second system, the unique diamond-shaped steel grid, serves quadruple duty: It resists wind and earthquake loads, interconnects the platform trusses, serves as the interior architectural finish and supports the glass curtain wall. The key to the success of this system was the design of special connections that allow the grid to stabilize the platforms against earthquakes without carrying any of their weight. This eliminated the need for fireproofing the grid steel, crucial to the desired architectural expression.

Inside the building, the world's first structural Books Spiral provides a continuous floor for the Library's nonfiction collection. If the four-level spiral were "unwrapped," it would stretch for more than eight city blocks. Other unusual features include a nine-level atrium through the center of the building, a meeting level with tomato-red curving walls and a children's area with playfully canted columns.

In recognizing the Central Library's technology with a Gold Award, the ACEC noted that the building's unconventional architecture "created communication challenges for Library staff serving patrons and required an innovative technology solution."

Sparling recommended wireless "smart" necklaces for optimal internal staff communication and to permit live research assistance to patrons who call the library. Implementing this solution in a cost-effective manner demanded wireless capabilities that were previously non-existent, ACEC noted. One vendor said wireless services couldn't be accomplished with less than 700 access points. Sparling conducted predictive analysis to implement an innovative centralized wireless system that utilized only 78 access points.

With a robust wireless system now in place, Library staff regularly use the hands-free communication devices to quickly research materials and answer questions in real-time to outside callers.

Since both awards were the highest in their respective categories, they are now considered "national finalists" and will compete for the national titles with all other state winners from ACEC chapters. National finalists will be judged in early February, with the announcement of national winners made during the Engineering Excellence Awards Gala, April 11 in Washington, D.C.

For more information contact:

Andra Addison, communications director

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