Filter Menu

University of Glasgow Library, Glasgow

Refurbishment of library building offers sustainability benefits


The University, is committed by the Universities and Colleges Climate Commitment for Scotland (UCCCfS) to reduce carbon emissions by 20% over 5 years from a 2011 baseline.

The refurbishment of the University of Glasgow library building posed some unique challenges, but the resulting cladding and insulation improvements improved the sustainability of the building, and extended its life expectancy by 60 years.

The library building is a landmark in the local area. It has six towers, the tallest of which has 17 levels. It was designed in the Brutalist style, popular in the 1960's. Construction was completed, and the library opened in 1968.

By 2011, deterioration of the concrete cladding was beginning to occur due to weathering; it was becoming unsafe and unstable. A thorough analysis of a variety of improvement options was conducted, including building a brand new library, stripping and recladding the existing building and over-cladding the concrete.




Analysis, including a full economic study was conducted to identify the most suitable improvement measures for the library building, to protect and repair the structure and to improve its performance.

Following the extensive analysis of all the potential improvement measures suitable for the library building, over-cladding was decided to be the best option for making safe the library towers.

Refurbishment work began in January 2012, and was completed in July 2013. The total cost was £3.65million, which included:

  • Structural repairs to the existing concrete
  • Treatment of the concrete to prevent moisture ingress
  • Installation of installation
  • Double-glazing with argon gas
  • Over-cladding with an aluminium rain screen.


The over-cladding system included a Rockwool insulation (a sustainable stone and mineral wool material which is a thermal, fire and acoustic insulant), which can achieve a U-value of 0.2W/m²K.


There were a number of challenges to be overcome. The library is open 361 days per year, from 7am to 2am and is constantly used by the University’s students. As such, all improvement work had to be conducted with minimal disruption and inconvenience and the construction schedule had to ensure that the building could continue to be used. The library sits in a Conservation area, and is surrounded by residential properties, so noise and disruption had to be limited in the local area also. A variety of specialist skills, including abseiling were required to complete the project and difficult winter weather also caused problems accessing the tall towers of the building.

This work follows a ten year period of upgrades to services within the library, including the installation of a gas boiler with economiser and low energy lighting with occupancy sensors.

The University next plans to replace the steam district heating system with a new Low Temperature Hot Water (LTHW) system which includes a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit. The system will feed most of the larger buildings on the site, including the library. Works are planned to commence in May 2014, with completion due in September 2015. Carbon savings of more than 2000 tonnes per year are anticipated.  


The key outcomes of the project are as follows:

  • Total contract value = £3.65million
  • Insulation/cladding costs = £160,500 – payback of just over 9 years.
  • Energy saved = 440,000 kWh per annum
  • CO­2 saved = 81 tonnes per year.


This reduction in CO­2 emissions will help the University meet its commitment as part of the UCCCfS.

In addition, the refurbishment project has had a number of other benefits. Significant savings have been realised in the University’s heating and cooling bills. Ventilation and natural light levels have been improved, as has the thermal performance; draughts have been eliminated. Importantly, the structural safety risk has been resolved and the life of the building has been extended.


A number of ‘tips’ have been suggested following the completion of this project. First, a specialist contractor should be appointed to undertake complex and logistically challenging parts of work. A clear brief should be created for the design and build contract – detailing specific requirements, such as allowable times for noisy operations, to limit disruption to building users.

When considering solutions for structural problems, it is wise to consider measures which may provide additional benefits, such as improved thermal performance. Regular communication with stakeholders and building occupants is vital to engaging them in the project. Social media can be used effectively for this purpose.


Resource Efficient Scotland

Zero Waste Scotland

University of Glasgow Library


Resource Efficient Scotland supported the preparation and presentation of this case study for the Retrofit Scotland website.

Back to index