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Sun January 23 2022

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British Library brings in Wates for Boston Spa expansion

5 Nov 21 Wates Construction has been brought in on a pre-construction service agreement for the £100m British Library for the North project.

Image ©Carmody Groarke
Image ©Carmody Groarke

The British Library campus in Boston Spa, West Yorkshire, is set for major investment, with the government having allocated £95m to the project last year.

Wates’ 45-week pre-construction services consultant (PCSC) deal will see it working alongside the client’s design team up to RIBA Stage 4 with services engineer Buro Happold and London-based architecture practice Carmody Groarke.

The scheme involves not only the construction of a new 28-metre high, 5274 sqm archive building – which will be fully automated, with a public viewing gallery and 220km of extra shelf space – but also an extensive renovation of the nearby 1970s Brutalist-style Urquhart Building, including a new reading room, restaurant and café for visitors.

The British Library at Boston Spa, near Wetherby, is a 44-acre campus that used to be a Second World War munitions factory. It houses more than two-thirds of the Library’s collection of 170 million items as well as 550 staff.

Wates will work with the designers and its supply chain to help develop the design and to cost the project so that at the end of the 45-week period the final contract price can be agreed.

During this early phase, the contractor will construct large-scale prototypes to test the design theories needed to fulfil the net zero sustainability specification. The new build is required to achieve BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ and Passivhaus Accredited ratings, while the Urquhart Building renovation is designed to achieve BREEAM ‘Excellent’.

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British Library chief operating officer Phil Spence said: “This is a significant milestone for our Boston Spa site, which will transform the accessibility of our collections and services to people nationally. We look forward to working with our design team to deliver vital facilities that will support the growth of the national collection and open up access to a new generation of visitors.”

Wates Construction regional director David Wingfield said: “We know from past projects that the most critical success factors when constructing airtight buildings are genuine partnership and teamwork, for which Wates Construction has a proven track record.  This project will set the standard for facilities of this type worldwide.  Nothing like this archive has been built in the UK before, where the environment is completely airtight, and when complete, a fully automated racking and robotics system will be used to retrieve documents.

“It is both a fascinating and challenging project to work on, requiring cutting edge sustainable design solutions, and given its novel, world-beating status, a highly-coveted role for any contractor to secure.”

In a separate appointment, Wates Construction has also begun a programme of enabling works on the site, which also includes scoping surveys to inform the design and prepare for the main works which are due to start on site in May 2022.

The British Library aims to open its new spaces at Boston Spa by 2026.

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