Wellington Scoop

Choosing expansion for the Central Library

library option 3a

This 17-storey tower on top of the Central Library is one of three options for the building to be considered by Wellington city councillors at a meeting next week. The options are included in a paper in which staff make recommendations about “building print optimisation and sustainability options.”

The addition of a tower is not the option which staff are recommending.

Staff list its drawbacks as:

• high planning risk with district plan height plane changes required;
• heritage and consent implications, these are particularly relevant now that the building has been listed;
• visual impact on Central Library and surrounding area;
• extensive impact on the proposed structural design;
• estimated 18 month programme impact; not including the potential for legal challenge;
• prohibitive cost which is not feasible within the context of the draft LTP

library option 1a

This is the option being recommended by staff. It extends levels 3 and 4 of the building across the existing roof line by adding an 8m extension for each floor – adding 880sqm of additional usable space and taking the total useable area across the two floors from 2,300sqm to 3,180 sqm.39.

Staff say the existing configuration of levels 3 and 4 is not optimal due to the narrow corridor created by the lift core on the Te Ngākau side of the building – therefore this extension option creates a much more efficient floor plate with the core (lifts and stairs) being almost centred.

Some of the other benefits of this proposed extension would be:

• minimal visual impact from Te Ngākau and Harris St;
• low risk from a resource consent perspective;
• no shading impact on Te Ngākau;
• no additional structural work over and above the proposed Option C scheme;
• minimal impact on the building services;
• skylights retained in existing location;
• some rooftop space is retained for other use such as a rooftop garden.

library option 2a

This option, adding an extra floor, is also not recommended by staff, because

• additional structural work would be required to accommodate the increase in weight loading;
• the extension would have some visual impact from Civic Square and Harris Street;
• the bulk and height of the extension could mean some risk to planning approval;
• significant increase in cost;
• additional bathroom facilities required to meet occupancy standards;
• full rebuild of services layout and a new plant room required.

Staff say the option that they are recommending would achieve a 5 Green Star rating, and would achieve the Council’s sustainability priorities through the following interventions:

•no natural gas;
•rooftop solar panels;
•allowance for green spaces / ecological diversity via a roof garden, green wall and/or landscaping (to be determined);
•environmental resiliency with core services moved out of the basement and the majority of the ground floor raised;
•low carbon refrigerants used;
•water sustainability via rainwater harvesting (puts less load on stormwater system – increases resilience);
•sustainable transport hub to encourage cycling, plus charging for electric cars.

These proposals would generate 15-20% energy saving and 30% less greenhouse gas emissions – this would equate to approximately $35k in energy savings per year.

The recommended option will have these benefits, as summarised by staff:

Design for the visitor:
i. “whole of population” inclusion: traditional, new and future users;
ii. facilitating access to knowledge and knowledge services;
iii. anchoring social infrastructure in the city.

Harness the power of partnership:
i.through an integrated (not just co-located) service from Libraries, City Archive and Council Service Centre;
ii.as the home of Capital E.

Design a visitor experience that is modern, fit for the future, and Wellington:
i.a spatially flexible, accessible, modern environment speaking strongly of Wellington;
ii.a hub of creative, civic, and humanities activities and a visitor attraction in its own right;
iii.designed to evolve in response to ongoing digital and population change.

The estimated cost of the extension of levels 3 and 4 will require additional funding in the 2021-31 Long-term Plan of $8.5m and the impact on the construction programme is approximately 3 months.


  1. Greenwelly, 9. April 2021, 9:35

    Hang on a minute, we have just been through a process of deciding to keep the Library vs a new build, with council voting to repair the existing building at a cost difference of $`1 million over a new build. But now council officers are saying “the Library needs to be bigger, and we need to spend more millions on expanding parts of it…” Were these expansion plans presented in the consideration of keeping the building vs a new one?

  2. Concerned Wellingtonian, 9. April 2021, 9:53

    Greenwelly, what a good point! You have to follow things pretty closely to find out who is trying to slip something through.

  3. Andrewj, 9. April 2021, 10:10

    Classic feature creep. What next, a rooftop pool? Who asked the officers to investigate adding a tower block to the top of the library, or any expansion for that matter?

  4. Wet Blanket, 9. April 2021, 10:36

    Where has this sprung from? It wasn’t mentioned during the furore surrounding demolishing and “privatising” the library. How does it sit alongside the heritage status of the building?

  5. Dave B, 9. April 2021, 11:29

    What is wrong with these people? Now is not the time for more vanity projects. Fix the library as-is, by doing only what is required to satisfy the safety-concerns that led to its closure in the first place. Then get on with fixing the problems of basic infrastructure neglect (which, it seems, have arisen because of an excessive focus on vanity projects in the past).

  6. James S, 9. April 2021, 12:37

    Why was this not included in the questions highlighted for consultation in the draft Long-Term Plan?

  7. Alana, 9. April 2021, 12:59

    I think some priority should be given to library staff consultation, too. I hope there is a specific plan to organise serious consultation with them and their views for future needs for a modern library.

  8. K, 9. April 2021, 16:02

    Laughing at the two gigantic extensions being included as proposals: they fit the classic underhanded tactic of being so over the top ludicrous that it makes the “recommended” option look reasonable, despite the fact no one was aware that there was an extension being proposed in the first place.

  9. Toni, 9. April 2021, 16:29

    I have no idea why we ever bother to engage in public consultation because WCC clearly has its own agenda.

  10. Ms Green, 9. April 2021, 16:43

    The Council chose the most complex of all the options for the Library. It did not choose to fix it, which it could have done relatively easily, and had it reopened years ago. It did not choose a relatively straightforward new build. It chose the most costly ‘nice to have’ strengthening, which will keep the library closed for years. On the basis of a tickbox-biased consultation, the results of which have since been misrepresented, it chose to base isolate, despite the fact that the library was never assessed as ‘earthquake prone’ and sits on rock without threat of liquefaction according to engineers’ reports. And yes the option chosen by the Council did include adding on to the roof space.

    By the way if you knew what I know about the Town Hall project and its 462 new piles (according to the mayor), cost blowouts, its existing structural strength being taken apart, etc. etc. you would be horrified. It has stood for 115 years through thousands of earthquakes without all of this and even without having any earthquake rating assessed: “Town Hall Earthquake rating, Not recorded” ( quoted directly from the list of earthquake prone buildings in Wellington). This Council is out of control.

  11. Groggy, 9. April 2021, 17:00

    Alana, surely you jest. Why consult the people who actually use the building? They might have some good ideas that would conflict with some developer’s dream. Our rates have (no doubt handsomely) paid for someone to come up with this rubbish that was neither wanted nor needed.

  12. Local, 9. April 2021, 17:11

    rooftop solar panels; allowance for green spaces / ecological diversity via a roof garden, green wall and/or landscaping (to be determined); water sustainability via rainwater harvesting (puts less load on stormwater system – increases resilience). I don’t believe a word of this. The Council has had a roof top space for a garden up there since the Library was built and could have done this a long time ago, except it was told the roof wouldn’t sustain it. It’s going to service the library with tank water? Where will the tanks go?

  13. Upset ratepayer, 9. April 2021, 17:42

    This beggars belief. We have a published document on the contents of the long term plan which is about to go to public consultation and debate by all AND here we have Council employee/s promoting another high cost dream. Either there is another hidden agenda or the Council staff are being totally disrespectful to the ratepayers. I suggest that the time has come for proper managerial controls applied to all staff.

  14. Thomas Coughlan, 10. April 2021, 12:56

    On one hand, this seems a bit nuts, but on the other, I’d love to live in an apartment above the library. [via twitter]

  15. Ben Schrader, 10. April 2021, 14:00

    It kind of appeals to me as well Thomas – however impractical. You’d be able to say to guests: ‘Come and see my library.’

  16. Claire, 10. April 2021, 14:37

    Ben can you explain why you think it’s impractical. I have always followed your commonsense comments.

  17. Ben Schrader, 10. April 2021, 18:20

    I think the main reason it’s impractical Claire is that a residential tower would change the scale and mass of the buildings about the Te Ngākau Civic Square. At the moment they’re all relatively low-rise and that allows plenty of sunlight into the space. Building high-rise buildings (allowing one could lead to more) would almost certainly increase shading, making it less inviting to spend time in. High-rises could also make the Square more prone to wind – downdrafts, eddies etc.

    That said, further apartment buildings in the immediate environs would increase the number of people using the square on a daily basis and help make it the lively space we all want it to be.


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