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State of the art acoustics for Australia’s first public 6-star green building, Library at the Dock

Library at the Dock

It’s not that often you’re asked to build a library on a floating dock.

But that, in a nutshell, was the brief given to consultants working on Melbourne’s newest landmark, the Library at the Dock.

As the project’s acoustical engineers, Renzo Tonin & Associates played an important role in making sure the library not only looked great, but could also successfully accommodate quiet library spaces alongside performance venues and music and sound recording studios.

The Library at the Dock was built with an up-and-coming building product, cross-laminated timber, as well as recycled hardwood.

Cross-laminated timber, or CLT, is made by laminating sections of timber together in alternating directions to make up larger blocks, and then cutting to the desired panel size. CLT is much lighter than concrete, and drastically reduces construction times. The three-storey, 3000 square metre library structure was finished in just 60 days – a timeframe unheard of for more traditional projects of this size using concrete.

“Using CLT meant the building could go up very quickly, with a small workforce made up of mostly carpenters,” says Renzo Tonin & Associates acoustical engineer Darren Tardio.

“By enabling the developer to build this way with our acoustical engineering, we helped them towards their goal of achieving very low construction costs.”

Being a relatively new way of building in Australia, and with so much interest, the design team wanted to show off the building materials and structure as much as possible.

For a building made entirely from wood, this posed additional challenges in balancing the library’s quiet and active spaces.

“A particular concern was minimising noise disturbance to the quiet reading areas from the less traditional, noisy spaces, like sound production studios,” says Darren.

“And because the building is completely made up of lightweight structure with hard finishes, even something as simple as someone walking on an upper level could be appreciably noisy without the right acoustic treatment.”

Renzo Tonin & Associates engineers rose to the challenge and developed innovative acoustic systems to accommodate all aspects of the design brief.

“We used a range of acoustic treatments, like the floating floor systems on large rubber pedestals we developed and tested at the CSIRO to be 100% confident that they would work on-site. We also designed perforated timber panels that could be ‘hidden’ within architectural features so as not to detract from the building’s overall aesthetic.”

“It was really exciting to work on this project and find solutions that work well, look good and help the client achieve their aims of efficiency, aesthetics and sustainability.”

“To my knowledge, we’re the first acoustic consultant in Australia that’s worked with CLT. From our work on the Library at the Dock, as well as on the world’s tallest timber residential building, ‘Forte’, we have learned a lot in developing the acoustic solutions and we look forward to carrying this knowledge forward to future projects.”

The Library at the Dock came to life through a three-way partnership between the City of Melbourne, Lend Lease, and the state government through Places Victoria, with architecture and interior design by Hayball and Clare Design. As well as its unique Green Star rating, the project has also received two Australian Timber Design Awards.

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