Glulam Timber For Library Branch

Sept. 28, 2010

Many new libraries are being designed with exposed glued laminated (glulam) timbers to provide warm aesthetics. The timber also helps avoid an "industrial looking" interior.

Many new libraries are being designed with exposed glued laminated (glulam) timbers to provide warm aesthetics. The timber also helps avoid an "industrial looking" interior.

The new Trafalgar branch of the Johnson County Public Library, currently under construction in Trafalgar, Ind., is a showcase of exposed glulam columns and trusses. The Trafalgar project is part of a trend in which timber interiors are specified to provide a harmonious atmosphere for study, reading, meetings, and computer work. The new designs with timbers are a far cry from the past when many libraries were built like fortresses with heavy concrete columns and dark interiors.

Patterson-Horth Inc., Indianapolis, is general contractor for the project, and Veazey Parrott Durkin & Shoulders, Evansville, Ind., is the architect.

For the new Trafalgar library, "we wanted to create a warm and inviting retreat with a refined agrarian appeal for the interior of the library," says Sarah Schuler of Veazey Parrott Durkin & Shoulders.

Schuler says the library is being built on the site of a former farm which included a large barn. "The location, although it is becoming a bedroom community for Indianapolis, has a rich geologic and agrarian history," she says. "Our goal was to create a rustic but sophisticated look that captures some of Trafalgar's unique past. Trafalgar was once a stop on the rail system which served as an exchange for people and goods. Today, the new library captures a bit of that history by becoming an exchange for information and knowledge through the service it provides to the community. The exposed glulam structure recalls much of the past at Trafalgar. It is also a soaring structure that holds much hope for a rich future."

The exterior of the 21,000-square-foot structure is native sandstone. Although most of the library is glulam trusses, rafters and columns, the meeting room areas are framed with steel that is covered by a drop ceiling and not exposed.

The combination ceiling and roof is glulam decking, which complements the timber framing. Glulam columns are 10-1/2 inches by 11 inches with a height of 36 feet. The timber trusses, which span 38 feet, have 5-inch by 9-5/8-inch bottom chords and 5-inch by 11-inch top chords.

The laminated trusses went into place quickly because they arrived at the job site from Unit Structures, LLC, Magnolia, Ark. — the glulam timber supplier — pre-cut, drilled, fitted, and pre-assembled ready for erection. "When glulam materials arrive at the job site prefinished, this delivered product is the finished product," says Gary Burley of Unit Structures. "This makes glulam unique as a structural component for many kinds of buildings. Other types of framing members arrive on-site in raw form and require additional cladding to create the final product."

Designers note that the furring, sheathing and finishing often required with steel framing can be eliminated with glulam construction. The American Institute of Timber Construction says this means faster construction with wood at competitive costs. And unlike steel, concrete or other materials that deplete natural resources, wood is renewable with 6 million trees planted each day in the United States.

Charles Handel of Handel & Associates, Zionsville, Ind. — the glulam erector — says the library resembles a large attractive hall which some have compared to a railroad station design. The trusses and decking are South Pine glulam, stained a reddish brown. Over five truckloads of glulam timbers were erected in less than two weeks, according to Handel.

Other key project participants are Laminated Erectors, Trafalgar — erector, and Disdero Lumber — glulam decking.

The new Trafalgar branch has state-of-the-art library facilities including special sections for children, teens and adults; an information center; a technology center; and meeting rooms. "We are excited about the warmth of the library interior," says Beverly Martin of the Johnson County Public Library. "We even have a reading garden outside."