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LEB Construction delivers new Post Room at national monument

LEB Construction has completed a new-build extension to replace a Post Room that’s over capacity at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth

Appointed by the National Library of Wales, LEB Construction Ltd was tasked with demolishing an existing Post Room at the magnificent Aberystwyth venue, and constructing an all-new extension that is able to cope with the current post and parcels at the facility.

In addition to providing more capacity in the Post Room, the new-build three-story extension will also encompass a Cardboard Compression Room (yes, as it suggests, a room to crush and compact cardboard packages ready for recycling), additional offices on the first floor, a storage facility on the second floor for the gallery and two additional access points. The first is a three-storey, 2.5 ton commercial-grade lift, and the second is via a new stairwell which importantly allows the visitor capacity for the library to increase from a maximum of 150 to over 300. Building code fire regulations links the number of emergency exits to the number of people allowed in a venue.

The new-build would be situated within an existing small courtyard, so we ensured that our planning and logistics were ‘spot on’ in order to successfully complete this tight, challenging project.

Commencing the £1.8m project in January 2022, LEB set about the demolition of the existing building, before removing excess structure and waste from site.

The former Post Room resembled outdated giant toddler building blocks, as the repurposed portacabins were stacked on top of one another, stabilised by a metal frame of vertical and horizontal beams. Inside, each had been boxed out with 4x2 timber partitions and a plasterboard finish.

As the location of the site was so confined and inaccessible, LEB broke the cabins into sections to be craned out.

Using a Tadano ATF 50G-3 six-wheel 50-ton crane, boasting a reach of up to 40 metres, we watched as the telescopic orange boom soared into azure blue skies on a cool January morning, arching over the National Library to hoist the partitioned portacabins from the courtyard and place them onto awaiting flatbed lorries for removal from site.

With action in the skies replaced with a focus on the ground, new foundations were dug and concrete poured, while adaptions were made to underground drainage and incoming services to tally up with the new building’s layout.

With the foundation and lift pit poured and cured, erection of the steel frame could begin. The new structure took shape as it rose from the ground off a beam and block ground floor system with 75mm screed, insulation and vapour barrier control.

The first and second floors were formed with a profiled metal sheet decking and a power-floated finish to the composite floor.

Where required, the new structure was tied into the existing building. Code 5 lead flashing was cut-in to the existing brickwork joints to link the old and new. Then an EPDM roof membrane was then laid to provide a watertight transition.

A lift shaft and stairwell took shape within the footprint of the new extension, the former of which comprised a steel frame and concrete inset treads.

Topping the extension was a flat roof surrounded by a parapet wall. The roof was made up in layers, starting with a metal profiled deck, an Alutrix 600 Vapour Control Layer, 6mm external ply and 170–230mm tapered rigid insulation, all of which was protected from the elements by a RubberBond FleeceBack membrane, a durable and long-lasting EPDM flat roofing solution.

On the parapets, an upstand was formed with the EPDM membrane to ensure water tightness, with the parapets being topped with powder-coated aluminium copings. Gullies and channels were formed across the roof to collect rain water, which then passed through a number of through-wall rainwater outlets. These punctuations through the parapet allowed the rainwater to drain into powder-coated aluminium rainwater downpipes.

The dark modern roof and parapet was complemented by new aluminium-framed windows. The modern windows along with a James Hardie rainscreen cladding system finished in rusty brown enhanced the contrasting appearance of the new structure, standing beside the stone of the historical library. Each 600mm-wide panel was riveted to vertical cladding rails to produce a vertically aligned rectangular grid pattern.

Once watertight, LEB was able to break through on the third floor into the library. This then provided access to the additional means of escape to increase capacity, as well as the commercial lift and new storage area.

Mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) first-fix works were undertaken throughout before walls were closed up with plasterboard and then plastered. Once complete, this allowed the painters and decorators to transform the extension with a modern and fresh look before second-fix carpentry and MEP was completed. The floors were dressed with carpet tiles to the offices and vinyl to all other areas, while a heavy-duty floor paint was applied to the floor of the store room.

The final touches included a small kitchenette with a sink, countertop and a handful of cupboards.

Externally, LEB undertook additional work, with the construction of a new entrance ramp and steps. Blue bricks, slate wall copings, Marshalls conservation slabs for the walkway and steps, and a stainless-steel handrail were used, and the works have really smartened up and enhanced the entrance to this historical building.

On completion of the project, Luke Baker, Managing Director, LEB Construction Limited, said: “The National Library of Wales is not just a very proud possession for the people of Aberystwyth, it’s a treasure for the whole of the nation. It was with immense pride that we were able to work with the National Library and undertake the Post Room project for them, not only solving capacity issues but also enabling a significant increase in the number of visitors allowed at any one time. We thoroughly enjoyed this project and look forward to working with the National Library again in the future.”

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