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The 'perfect' library

The University of Westminster's Harrow Campus library refit was certainly a hit with students

Posted by Hannah Oakman | December 15, 2016 | Bricks & mortar

"The library's top floor is the perfect library", is a bold statement, but these are the words of one student from the University of Westminster's School of Media, based at the Harrow Campus in north London. They go on to say; "Quality equipment and comfortable, aesthetically pleasing seating areas," and this is where the recent fit out, including an innovative and high impact lighting system really has made the difference.

The refit of the second floor of the Harrow Library was the first part of a two-stage refit programme which is now nearing completion. The building is over 20 years old and was exhibiting signs of wear and tear. Architects Rock Townsend came up with a scheme which would deliver a 'vibrant and inspiring learning environment, fit for a dynamic and design savvy end user.' It was then down to main contractor Parkeray, in conjunction with M&E consultants CBG,  to realise these designs and they then turned to Southbourne Electrical and Complete Lighting Services for the execution of the high impact lighting element.

This was an exciting project which included several different types of light fitting. This mix of fittings plays a key role in helping to subtly but effectively delineate the different zones within the library - John Fenton, director at Southbourne Electrical

John Fenton, director at Southbourne Electrical explains more: "This was an exciting project which included several different types of light fitting. This mix of fittings plays a key role in helping to subtly but effectively delineate the different zones within the library." 

The biggest challenge that John and his team faced was working out how to fix the Astro Linialite LED luminaires lights that run above each shelving area to the high, curved metal roof. Each of these 19 fittings, which also include both emergency light using Tridonic EM ConverterLED emg packs and movement sensors, measures approx seven metres in length and had to be accurately suspended so that the uninterrupted lines of light which they emit fell between the rows of bookshelves. Using the latest spot laser techniques and with the fittings laid out on the floor, the location of each individual fastening point was carefully located. A second challenge was keeping the library open for students throughout the process but with the close co-operation of the library management team and understanding from both sides this was achieved.

The zig-zag lighting has proved popular with the students

Above the custom designed IT benches is a 30 metre zig-zag arrangement formed using a number of the bespoke manufactured  Astro Linialite. In total Complete Lighting Services supplied over a 1000m of this fitting and within each was housed  the Tridonic LLE GEN4 4000K, which are driven by Tridonic LCA 50 AND 75W One4All Premium Driver. Tridonic drivers were specified throughout the project and Complete Lighting Services, a Tridonic OEM, were happy to incorporate them in their bespoke designs. "We know from our own experience that Tridonic's products are highly efficient and reliable but it was great that the consultants were of the same opinion," said Chris Ball, managing director of Complete Lighting Services. 

The library is well blessed with large amounts of natural light but the lighting installations when combined with the studio like work areas and surfaces really give the area a feeling of vibrancy and inspiration, especially the flashes of bubble gum pink. With the second floor designated a silent area, this really is a place for students to focus on their studies away from distractions. There are a number of silent study booths which contain high backed seats along to top of which is hidden more LED strip lighting, providing additional illumination suitable for working with both books and screens. An additional feature of these study booths are the grey, shell-like, Muuto Under The Bell E27 pendant fittings, again fitted with LEDs. These are suspended centrally over the desks, allowing a pool of light to fall upon the student's work area.

Following the success of the second floor fit out, Southbourne and Complete Lighting were delighted to be awarded the contract for the provision and install of the lighting for the first floor and the ground floor reception area, early this year. The design of the first floor replicates that of the completed second floor, although the installation was somewhat easier with a level ceiling as opposed to the domed roof of the second floor. 

Both levels also feature a number of light walls, that serve as backdrops to display counters and dividers between different areas. However these are comparatively small when compared to the approx 6m x 3m light wall that is a feature of the ground floor reception and self service loans area and was another bespoke piece of manufacturing undertaken by Complete Lighting for the project. Cleverly designed with a central cut out shelving area and fronted with a white Perspex cover, this light wall alone uses over 200 Tridonic QLE boards. Throughout the entire refit, the lighting is operating at 4,000 Kelvin, an optimum level of light that is conducive to study, creativity and wellbeing.

As the final finishing touches are completed there is no doubt that the 4,000 students and 250 staff at the University of Westminster Harrow Campus really do have a vibrant and inspiring library in which to study and learn. When the library management and staff first saw the completed second floor they were, according to John Fenton, 'blown away'.  With its modern decor, stylish lighting and its echoes of a design studio, the newly refitted library certainly sets the standards for the University's 2020 vision and is a great example of how lighting can be pivotal in creating the perfect environment.

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