Carillion – The Library of Birmingham

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The Library of Birmingham


Carillion is a leading integrated support services and construction company which operates across the UK, in the Middle East and Canada.


The Client’s brief was that the project aimed to have robust building efficiency, BREEAM Excellent, construction impacts minimised, long-term employability and skills, and community benefit and legacy.


The project had a fixed budget and end date which could not be exceeded and a quality expectation like no other.  This was coupled with the fact that the site was located in the City centre, surrounded on all faces and with regular public and civic events traffic.  Also preserving, maintaining and then integrating the existing Repertory Theatre into the new Library systems and infrastructure was challenging.


  • Birmingham City Council – Client
  • Mecanoo – Architect
  • Capita – Clients Project Managers & Cost Consultants
  • Buro Happold – Engineers

Project delivery

The Library of Birmingham is a landmark project providing a unique facility for Birmingham that attracted 2.7 million
visitors in its first year and delivers a sustainability strategy recognised across the UK.

To deliver a sustainability step change the team focussed on a number of differentiating strands:

  1. Building efficiency & BREEAM: Ensuring designs incorporated sustainable energy and water solutions based on robust payback and benefits.
  2. Innovation: Construction impacts minimised, from reducing materials and lorry movements to computerised deliveries and one way system. 
  3. Employability & training:  Delivering a landmark for employment, focussing on long term employability and life skills.
  4. Community benefit: Planned community involvement, including resident gardens, facilities for the homeless and 2,000 members of the public onsite for construction and careers briefings. 
  5. Legacy: Aspirations for the construction phase passed into the Library, including interactive web pages available to the public.

By delivering hard outcomes the team achieved a change in how Birmingham City Council and Carillion approach sustainability:

  • Dedicated resource within Client team for employment and training.
  • Neighbour and community relations best practice and lessons learned case study.
  • Celebrating and publicising success with briefings across Birmingham City Council and Carillion, including a focus on employee development and wider construction learning, by working with the Construction Industry Training Board and and the UK Contractors Group.
  • Library model used across Carillion, with lessons learned passed to all major projects, including Birmingham, London and Liverpool.

These step change progressions were unique to the Library culture and have provided a new focus to support Carillion’s construction sustainability strategy from 2014.

Meeting aims and overcoming challenges

The project opened, as originally programmed, in September 2013 and was delivered under budget.  Delivery was also achieved without disturbing Birmingham’s “business as usual” activities and, in reality, the site became a destination to enjoy and interact with during its construction phase.  Third party and customer feedback has been, and remains, exceptional with visitor number expectations exceeded.


These are numerous and wide ranging; from energy improvements to employment and skills gains and beyond:

  • CO2 savings predicted and monitored 
  • Renewable energy optimised: 30% of project needs delivered within energy strategy 
  •  28.18 kg/CO2/m2 giving an Energy Performance certificate of 36 
  • EPC rating improved over target 40 
  • BREEAM Excellent delivered 
  • Combined heat and power energy centre 
  • Mixed mode ventilation reducing mechanical solutions 
  • Grey water harvesting including low water sanitary fittings used throughout the building 
  • Reduced waste to landfill – over 97% waste diverted 
  • Post tensioned frame used to reduce materials and vehicle movements at site 
  • Flora and fauna specified to maximise bio diversity and positive ecological impact 
  • Brown roof and raised planting beds to enhance site biodiversity 
  • 308 long term unemployed back into permanent employment 
  • 83 apprenticeships
  • 19 homeless and ex-offenders into permanent employment 
  • 30 homeless work placements delivered
  • 600 school resource days delivered 
  • Guardian 2012 National Social Impact Award 
  • Business in the Community Big Tick Award 
  • Two National Skills Awards and CITB video 
  • Business in The Community Game Changer Award 
  • 2,000 public visits and site tours during construction 
  • £25,000 raised by project team for community causes


The Library of Birmingham has already secured a number of major awards throughout the construction and post construction phases including:

  • The Guardian Social Impact Award 2013
  • The Construction News Project of the Year 2014
  • Business in the Community “Big Tick” award
  • The RICS West Midlands Project of the Year and Design through Innovation Award 2014
  • The 2014 Constructing Excellence Awards, Collaborative Working and Project of the Year Awards.

The project is currently being evaluated and considered for a number of National Awards, including a shortlisted entry for the 2014 Stirling Prize.

Additionally, a number of third parties have also recognised this project:

  • “Awe inspiring.”   Kevin McCloud
  • “It is bold, it is beautiful, it is barely believable”   New Statesman
  • “Breathtaking” Financial Times
  • “Doing its bit to turn over a new page in the city’s history” Daily Telegraph

SWM comment

With such a large and highly reputable company as Carillion it may be easy to think that pushing the boundaries is not as important, but clearly this project showed how the company continue to strive to improve their service, not only for the client but for the wider economy and public.  The outstanding results, feedback and recognition they have received undoubtedly demonstrates the mark of a good practice example.


For more information email Simon Dingle, Carillion Operations Director at or 07702 636 338.


Carillion’s Game of Excellence
Carillion’s Interactive Legacy (contact for a copy)