Vision of library becomes reality through design-assist process

Plans for a four-story atrium made from glass panels set at irregular angles and supported by a slender steel frame convinced partners in the Langsdale Library project to embrace a less-conventional approach to construction.

Located on the corner of Maryland Avenue and Oliver Street, the redeveloped site will serve not only as a state-of-the-art academic library but also a striking, gateway building to the University of Baltimore campus. Designed by Behnishch Architeckten of Boston which also designed UB’s John and Frances Angelos Law Center, the rebuilt Langsdale Library will feature a modern facade of undulating, metal panels and large, irregular windows; open-concept interiors with an industrial style; and that soaring glass atrium.

“This is an amazing project in the heart of Baltimore and at the core of what we have always done – higher-ed work. And the design of one of a kind,” said Brett Plano, Founder.

That complex design and the need for builders to accurately execute its vision while remaining on budget convinced UB to make Langsdale Library atrium a design-assist project. It contracted Plano-Coudon to manage that process as well as complete the entire library renovation.

For a year, Plano-Coudon collaborated with the architect and TSI Exterior Wall Systems to develop a complete and constructible design for the library.

“It’s a great process. We’re an advocate for it,” Plano said. “If the project had gone a traditional path, the architect would have designed the glass for the atrium, then had a structural engineer design the steel and hoped those components would marry together. Then a subcontractor might come in and say my manufacturer doesn’t like the way you designed the glass, so I’m altering it to match what my manufacturer can do. Then you might have to tweak the structural steel. So you might end up with a different end result than what was envisioned. You can’t take that chance with the focal point of such a unique building.”

Detailed analysis of the atrium plan enabled Plano-Coudon, TSI and the architect to develop a final plan that meets the original vision and addresses both the structural limitations of the project and the desire to minimize the steel frame. It also averted a budget overrun.

“We were advised not to let the project price creep up,” said Cliff Milstead, Project Executive. “So we value engineered the entire building.”

That process identified multiple opportunities for savings, such as rehabilitating one staircase rather than replacing it, and those savings financed the cost of executing the full vision for the atrium.

Construction of the atrium is slated to begin later this spring. Meanwhile, renovation of the existing 58,000-square-foot building is already underway. Plano-Coudon and subcontractors have gutted the interior, removed the exterior veneer and demolished the previous auditorium. By the end of the year, crews will transform the space into a modern, high-tech library with an industrial feel, including large open spaces, glass partitions, polished concrete floors, and exposed ceilings.

“Coordinating the mechanical and electrical to work well in that space is challenging,” said Darryl Richardson, Project Manager. “We have to carefully route everything through bulkheads so that it works right and gives that industrial feel.”

Creating onsite mockups of items ranging from concrete walls and floors to millwork and paint colors has been essential to efficiently and accurately advancing the highly customized project, Richardson said.

“A lot of little details require mockups because nothing in this job is a standard, off-the-shelf item,” Milstead said. “By creating the mockups, we can make sure that we can actually build each component and in the way that the architect and the client are expecting.”