Macquarie University Library

 ... achieving more, by using less

Macquarie University Library

Opened in 2011, the Macquarie University Library (Building C3C) was designed to be a sustainable building. 
It has:

  1. low energy intensity (energy used per square meter)
  2. low water intensity (water used per square meter)
  3. water tanks
  4. green roof
  5. low volatile organic compounds in paints, sealants, adhesives and carpets, along with the recycled materials used in much of the structure and fit-out which provides a high quality, pollutant free environment for users.

The test of a sustainable building is how much it takes through the lifetime of that building to provide shelter and services to support the building user's needs (the tasks and the population). As such, the real standout for the Library's sustainability performance is the Automatic Storage and Retrieval System, the ASRS.

The ASRS means that the Macquarie University library provides that support, using far less. By using the ASRS, the University was able to reduce the overall size of the library (ie, the amount of floor space needed) by over 11,000 square meters, which equates to around 42 tennis courts in size and 40% of the current library floor area.  That is how much space would typically be required to provide seats for 10% of the student population (3,000 seats) as well as the library catalogue.

The end result is that we provide services to less space, resulting in savings of over a million kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy per year, or around 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, and 1.25 million litres of water.  That is the equivalent per annum savings of:

  • 208 cars off the road
  • 2,325 barrels per annum of oil not consumed
  • over AU$200,000 in building running costs saved
  • around 5 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water

In addition, there are the embodied savings which comprise savings in natural resources, energy, transport, construction costs and building materials, required to source and construct the building fabric and structure. Embodied savings include not only savings due to space not built, but also reduction in the load the floors and structure need to carry. Book shelving is heavy and requires a higher load capacity  of 7.5 kilopascals (kPa), rather than typical office space which requires 7 kPa.

So what is the result? The EcoFootprinting Company (insert link) determined that the ecological footprint (ie, the full life cycle cost, measured as how much productive land is required to support the building over a 25 year life cycle) of the building is 40% less than it would have been had we not built the ASRS and the collection was housed on the floor, and 70% less than using the techniques used in the old library building.

How many planets?

With the ASRS, the Library building is a 0.56 planet building. In other words if all buildings provided service to people as efficiently as the library as a world population, then we would be using 56% of the earth's capacity to service our demand for resources.

Without the ASRS (all other features of the library being the same), the Library building would have been a 0.96 planet building. In other words, if all buildings provided service to people as efficiently as the Library without the ASRS, as a world population we would be using 96% of the earth's capacity to service our demand for resources.

How does that compare to the past?

The old Library building (C7A) would have been a 1.96 planet building when it was built. In other words if all buildings provided service to people like the old Library building, as a world population we would be using 196% of the earth's capacity to service our demand for resources.

Macquarie University Library Building C3C Planet Rating

1. Energy Intensity

The Macquarie University C3C Library building energy intensity is 367 megajoules per square metre per annum, or 101 kilowatt hours averaged over 12 months (last updated 1 February 2013). The benchmarked average for Library buildings as surveyed by the Green Building Council of Australia in 2008, was 630 megajoules per square metre.  In other words, we are running at just over 58% of the benchmarked average for our building... We are aiming for 50%.

2. Water intensity

The Macquarie University C3C Library building water intensity is 0.113 kilolitres per square metre. The public building benchmark is 1.125 kilolitres per square metre per annum, which means we are running at just over 10 % of the benchmarked average for public buildings.

3. Water Tanks

The C3C Library building has a 278,000 litre water tank which captures water as it is filtered over the green roof.  The water from this tank is used to flush toilets and for irrigation.  It is estimated that this, combined with the drip irrigation, has reduced the potable water used in irrigation of the green roof by 90%.

4. Green roof

Macquarie University Library Building C3C Green RoofThe Library building that you see from the Campus grounds is a only a small proportion of the total building. There are actually two floors below ground. These floors are about twice the length of the above ground section, and the half that is poking out is covered by a ground level green roof!  The roof is covered in lawn and landscaped with Australian native plants, including:

  • Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos manglesii)
  • Sawsedge (Gahnia sp.)
  • Blue Flax-lily (Dianella caerulea)
  • Spiny-headed Mat-rush (Lomandra longifolia)
  • Sydney Blue Gum (Eucalyptus saligna)
  • Scribbly gum (Eucalyptus haemastoma)
  • Tallowwood (Eucalyptus microcorys)


5. Automatic Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS)

Macquarie University Library C3C Building Automatic Storage & Retrieval SystemThe Macquarie University ASRS is essentially a giant (five storey) vending machine where over 80% of the Library's book collection is stored.  It has four cranes which collect book boxes or bins that have been requested via an online request system.  The storage system has:

  • Full environmental control of the area housing the ASRS, independent of the surrounding building systems.
  • Retrieval system fully integrated with the Library catalogue.
  • A visual browsing capability that displays a bookcover, in addition to a textual description and catalogue number.
  • Four different height metal bins storing up to 1.8 million volumes of varying sizes and types.
  • Four computer controlled robotic cranes for storage and retrieval.
  • Computer controlled logistics fully integrated with the Library catalogue that can identify the individual location of volumes by barcode from over 17,394 bin locations, which all together hold 2.3 million items, or around 80% of the Library's total collection (the remainder of the collection being available on open shelving within the Library).
  • A retrieval rate of up to 160 bins per hour
  • Request to receipt times of less than 10 minutes



6. Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that have a high vapour pressure at ordinary room-temperature conditions. Their high vapour pressure results from a low boiling point, which causes large numbers of molecules to evaporate or sublimate from the liquid or solid form of the compound and enter the surrounding air.

Typically paints, sealants, carpets and adhesives contain VOCs (it's that new smell from a freshly painted room).  However, some VOCs are dangerous to human health or cause harm to the environment.  Harmful VOCs are typically not acutely toxic, but instead have compounding long-term health effects.
Paints, sealants, carpets and adhesives with low to no VOCs are now available, and were used throughout the Macquarie University Library building.

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