Missoula Public Library
Nestled in the city’s vibrant downtown, the Missoula Public Library is a 106,675-square-foot cultural and educational center that replaces its former 1970s-era building. Designed with a focus on changing technology, accommodating future growth, upholding sustainability, and space for community engagement, this four-story building includes:
- Missoula Community Access Television (MCAT) – a media production studio.
- University of Montana Living Lab – a research facility.
- Hank and Nancy Harrington Children’s Library.
- Families First Learning Lab.
- University of Montana spectrum Discovery Area.
- Book collections, a kitchen, and space for genealogical research.
- An events space for meetings, receptions, and community social events.
Our team worked for A&E Design and MSR Design to provide:
- Site Civil Engineering.
- Mechanical and Plumbing Engineering.
- Electrical Engineering (power, signal, and emergency lighting).
Since enhancing the library’s open floor plan was a critical part of this project, we used an underfloor air distribution system combined with ground-source cooling. These systems supply air from the air handling equipment and discharge it into the pressurized underfloor plenum at a warmer temperature than a traditional overhead cooling system. This works by providing air at floor level and returning it at the ceiling level. Then the air travels in a unidirectional path rather than mixing the room air, which removes heat from people and equipment, returns through openings in the ceiling, and travels back to the air handling equipment for conditioning. Not only was this a system that worked with the building’s design but discharging warmer air to cool a building also saves energy.
The underfloor distribution system also provides unparalleled flexibility. Air terminals, power, and signal requirements can be easily adjusted to accommodate future changes. As the library’s needs change, its core infrastructure can be adjusted quickly and inexpensively.
Electrical in the Floor
Since the library’s design required an open floor plan and needed an underfloor air distribution system, using a typical power-distribution method was impossible. As the goal was to make power readily accessible at any point in the building, we created a networked system of modular access floor boxes spider-webbed from power distribution modules (PDMs).
The connections between the floor boxes and PDMs use pre-wired, pre-terminated plug connections so the library can move the floor boxes and add new ones without hiring an electrician. This design also accommodates future renovations and lets the staff quickly move equipment and furniture.
Design-First Engineering Solutions
The open floor plan required creative measures that worked efficiently and effectively with the design. For example, we routed storm drain piping so it was out of view, and came up with new conduit routing and wiring methods for the lighting and fire alarm systems.
While most utility routing occurred under the raised floor, some conduits and piping needed to transition into the walls around the perimeter of the building. We worked with the structural designers to create sweeps through the concrete to enter the wall framing to make this possible.