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The Hive
The Hive, Public Library, Worcester, UK.JPG
General information
Type Library
Architectural style
  • Postmodern
Address Sawmill Walk, The Butts
Town or city Worcester
Country England
Opened 2 July 2012 (2012-07-02)
Cost £29.7 million
Technical details
Floor area 12,371m2
Design and construction
Architecture firm Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Structural engineer
  • Hyder Consulting
  • Atelier One
Services engineer Max Fordham
Main contractor Galliford Try
Awards and prizes
  • BCI Sustainability Award (2013)
  • Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Award for Outstanding Library Team - University of Worcester (2013)
  • RIBA National Award (2013)
  • RIBA: West Midlands Award (2013)
  • RIBA: West Midlands Sustainability Award (2013)
  • Civic Trust Award - FCB (2013)
  • RICS Awards West Midlands: The Award for Design and Innovation (2013)
  • RICS Awards West Midlands: The Community Benefit Award (2013)
  • Guardian University Award: Contribution to the Local Community through The Hive - University of Worcester (2013)
  • Building Magazine: Sustainable Project of the Year - The Hive, Max Fordham and FCB Studios (2013)
  • CIBSE: New build project of the year (value above £5 million) - FCB (2013)
  • Civic Trust Award (2013)
  • BREAAM: Outstanding 86.4% (2012)
  • UK Public Private Partnership Awards - Best Sustainability in a Project (2012)
  • Post Tensioned Society Awards: Building of the Year (2012)
  • South Worcestershire Building Control: Building Excellence Award (2012)
  • West Midlands Regional Planning Award (2012)
  • Bentley Be Inspired: Infrastructure Best Practices Symposium and Awards - Innovation in Generative Design (2009)

The Hive, is a large golden-coloured building in Worcester, England, which houses the fully integrated Worcestershire County Council City of Worcester public library, the University of Worcester's academic library, Worcestershire Record Office the county Archive and Worcestershire Archaeology Service.

The Hive was the first library in Europe to house both a university book collection and a public lending library replacing the City of Worcester library in The Tything and the University of Worcester's Peirson library. It was opened to the public on 2 July 2012 and officially opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II in her Diamond Jubilee year (12 July 2012).

The library houses over a quarter of a million books including substantial children's & academic libraries, whilst the secure archive provides storage to over 12 miles (19 km) of archive collections including William Shakespeare’s marriage bond to Anne Hathaway and more than 45,000 records of historic monuments and buildings. The Hive is also home to Worcestershire County Council customer services "Worcestershire Hub"; a business centre; café; and, meeting facilities. There are a total of 350 computers distributed around the building, for joint use by members of the public and the university's students. Public use WiFi connectivity is also provided.

The award-winning design of the building uses advanced environmental technology to improve sustainability, including computer controlled ventilation & river water cooling negating the use of a traditional air conditioning system. A bio-mass boiler is provided for heating as required.

Background and finances

Costing £60-million, The Hive was the subject of a complex private finance initiative programme, which brought together the designers with the building contractors Galliford Try Ltd and the mechanical and electrical engineering consultants Max Fordham LLP. Originally developed in Australia in the 1980s, PFI is a method of procuring the design and construction of major public buildings by using private sector funding and contracting services. The Hive's joint commissioning clients were the University of Worcester and Worcestershire County Council. Funding was also provided by the National Lottery and the British government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Department for Education.


The Hive received 968,105 visitors in its first year of operation. With 94.5 hours a week of operation, Monday to Sunday 8.30am - 10pm, it is thought to have the longest weekly operating hours of any library in the UK.

According to the Annual Public Library Statistics from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), The Hive issued 903,859 books during the financial year 2013/14 and achieved 978,199 visits.

This has placed it top in the West Midlands for both of the aforementioned statistics, second in the country for the number of books loaned, and fourth for visit numbers just two years after opening, beating both Oxford Central Library and Cambridge Central Library.

External appearance

Aerial view of The Hive and surrounding landscape

The Hive has a unique external appearance, created by its gold-coloured cladding and distinctive roof profile, formed by seven upward-facing 'cones'. The Hive can be viewed from many vantage points across the city and sits in strong contrast to the majority of the city’s medieval, Georgian and Victorian architecture. The cones are one of the many design features which earned the building a BREEAM 'Outstanding' rating, and were inspired by the outline of the popular Malvern Hills and the kilns of Royal Worcester Porcelain. 60x60 cm alloy 'tiles', made from recycled copper, cover more than 11,000 sqm of the building's walls and roof. The cladding which covers The Hive's horizontal facades is interrupted by large areas of double glazing in order to let as much natural light as possible into the interior.

History of the site

As well as being the county's primary repository of archaeological finds, The Hive is sited on a historic part of the city of Worcester. The area's name, The Butts, refers to the open edge-of-city space knows as Archery butts which were designated for longbow archery practice in medieval times (23 UK towns still retain this as a place name); evidence of Roman iron ore smelting was discovered and preserved; and in Victorian times part of the site housed the city's cattle market.

Layout and public facilities

The total floor area of the 5-storey building covers 13,253 sqm. Located at the southernmost point of the city centre, The Hive adjoins the line of the old city wall and overlooks the River Severn.

Level 0 'Shared Study' – Social Study Area, Games, Film and Music
The public area of Level 0 was designed with teen-age people in mind. The space offers lots of group study station and also group study screens together with books aimed at teen-age readers. This level also houses The Hive's DVD, CD and graphic novel collections. The other half of Level 0 houses the county's archive stores, conservation department and archaeological services, is one metre above the Severn's 100-year flood level, though flood prevention safeguards have been incorporated into the structure and the adjoining landscaping. More than 26,000 records are stored in seven climate-controlled strongrooms, including the Marriage Bond between William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, dated 28 November 1582.

Level 1 'Discover' – Worcestershire Hub, Children & Families, Quick Choice & Reservations, Café & Shop, The Studio
A large paved forecourt leads to The Hive's main public entrance, a naturally-lit central atrium paved with stone from the Forest of Dean, with The Hub, a café and a spacious colourful Children's Library all set around a staircase finished in Ash wood. This is one continuous flight of 42 steps, interrupted only by three intermediate landings, which rises up through the whole building. Its structural support is provided by cross-laminated timber panels, making it an all-wood entity. FCBS's colour consultant Libby Lloyd has introduced a vivid palette into the children's spaces; many 'borrowed' from historic ranges produced by the city's famous Royal Worcester potteries, including a chrome yellow Story Pit, small timber-framed alcoves for parent-child reading and a castellated outdoor Story Island.

Level 2 'Explore The Past' – Archives & Archaeology, Meeting Rooms 1 – 6, Business Centre
'Explore the Past' is the theme of the building's second level, with a number of display and presentation techniques used around the open-plan area, including pendant 'sound domes' replaying recorded extracts from the county's sound archive of oral history. This floor also houses local reference library books.

Level 3 – 'Read, Learn, Imagine' – Main Public & University Library, Meeting Rooms 7 & 8
The Hive's principal public lending and reference library is located on this floor as are many of the public use computers. Over 200,000 volumes are housed in book stacks whose ends contain glass-sided display cases. A comfy seating area with views over the river Severn and an area for magazine and newspaper reading are provided.

Level 4 'Research, quiet study' Special Collections, Journals
This much smaller floor is built into one of the roof cones and contains a silent study area for those who prefer together with the Hive's Special Collections including:
The Stuart Collection' Over one-thousand books concerned with the period of history in which Britain was under the rule of the House of Stuart (1603-1714). This collection was bequeathed to Worcester City Library in 1900 by John Grainger, a book seller in the City of Worcester. The Stanbrook Abbey Collection - A collection of publications made by the Stanbrook Abbey Press.

Innovative Design Features

The Hive, Worcester, England - DSCF0795
The Hive during construction in June 2011

The building uses renewable energy and has recycling facilities throughout. Designers sought to make the building's form and fabric temper the internal environment, thus minimising the need for mechanical systems. Where these are required they were specified to have a minimal environmental impact and to make maximum use of renewable resources. The building was designed to be well sealed and insulated to avoid incidental losses, and glazing and shading devices are orientated to minimise unnecessary gains.
The building makes maximum use of controlled natural light and ventilation with controls and local manual override. Materials were selected to minimise embodied energy and generation of toxins in manufacture, use and ultimate disposal. Where possible materials were recycled and locally sourced and the design allows for the building structure and fabric to be recycled at the end of its life. Water use is minimised by the specification of water saving fittings and the recycling of grey water.

Green travel is facilitated via cycle parking, provision of staff showers and excellent connections to public transport.

In all public areas the heating and cooling is controlled automatically to maintain comfortable room temperatures. The majority of heating and cooling is by radiant effect from the concrete ceilings which have pipework embedded in them, while the building itself is naturally ventilated by automatic windows, controlled by carbon dioxide and temperature sensors.


The environmental brief given to the design team was that a 50% renewable energy figure had to be achieved for The Hive, which would have been difficult considering the anticipated popularity of the building. To accommodate the energy demands expected from climate changes, the building's environmental needs were 'future proofed' on UK meteorological projections up to the year 2050.

In modern business practice the term Synergy is sometimes used to explain how the resulting conclusion of a successful operation can turn out to be greater than the sum of the constituent parts. The American Buckminster Fuller was the first western philosopher and futurologist to use this term in an architectural context, with particular reference to the energy efficiency and sustainability of buildings. The popularity of The Hive and the meeting of its challenging energy performance targets may yet lead this library to become one of the few UK examples of synergy in a public building.

The building is not conventionally air conditioned because the production of the electricity used to make and operate air conditioners has an environmental impact, including the release of greenhouse gasses. Instead, air flows around the perimeter of The Hive through opening windows. Air makes its way towards the main atrium and other voids where it rises to roof level and is exhausted through the roof vents. The seven roof-mounted cones encourage the upward movement of stale air by stack effect, mechanically aided a large below-ground duct which supplies air naturally to the bottom of the main atrium space. To safeguard against contra-flows created by external wind turbulence, which might negate this stack effect, the architects commissioned a scale model of one of the cones to be tested in a wind tunnel at Cardiff University. The predominant wind direction is from the South-West which means that air is blown over the river and the water meadow provided as part of the landscape in front of the building. There is some degree of evaporative cooling which reduces the air-temperature of the incoming air. Exposed concrete soffits provide the majority of the thermal mass and these are pre-cooled by the night-time cooling strategy. In very hot weather when the natural ventilation can no longer maintain the required conditions, cool water (fed by the river cooling system) is circulated around either chilled beams or pipes embedded in the concrete slab to provide further cooling.

The building was designed to make maximum use of daylight, both to provide a bright environment and also to reduce energy consumption. The large window areas and 'sky-lights' in the roof cones provide sufficient natural light for low-energy electric lighting to be kept to a minimum, reducing both energy demands and ambient heat creation. Artificial lighting typically represents around 30% of a building’s energy use.
The required quietness levels needed in The Hive's extensive study areas are achieved through vertical decorative Ash 'fins' mounted on sound absorption blankets fixed to the structure's concrete soffits, and acoustic panels positioned strategically all around the building.

The main heating source in winter is a 550 kW biomass boiler, with emergency back-up being provided by three 250 kW gas-fired boilers. In extreme summer conditions, river water is pumped into the basement of the building, passed across concrete heat exchangers, with the cooled air ducted up into the central atrium. Temperature checks are maintained on the water returned to the river to comply with the UK Environment Agency's fish protection regulations. The engineers developed a strategy which uses the River Severn as a heat sink. Water is pumped from the river to The Hive, passed through a heat exchanger and then returned to the river at only a few degrees warmer. On the other side of the heat exchanger, water is pumped around the building and used to cool the concrete slabs; the water inside the building is kept hydraulically separate from the river water to prevent contamination and blockages.
Rainwater harvesting is used to serve the WC flushing and archaeological washing requirements. Neither of these require potable water and so can be fed from harvested rainwater with minimal treatment. They also represent the greatest consumptive use within the facility.

Landscaping consultants Grant Associates surrounded the library with plantings of Black Pear (the county fruit of Worcestershire), black poplars, cherries, oaks, pollarded willows and medieval fruits. Tracts of wild flowers and grassed areas close to the building act as supplementary 'coolants' for fresh air being drawn in at basement level during the summer; and for fuel for The Hive's biomass boiler, a large plantation of willows has been established alongside the building. To act as flood attenuation, two water meadows are situated along the western elevation of the new building. These have been planted with a range of native wildflower species, based on communities found locally in traditional lammas meadows. Worcestershire’s county flower, the cowslip, is planted throughout. There are a number of wildlife features to provide bird nesting, bat roosting and stag beetle hibernation opportunities in the turret of Story Island.


The Hive won the prize for the best new-build project of the year in the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) Building Performance Awards 2013. It was shortlisted alongside six other buildings including the Titanic in Belfast and Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. The Hive was recognised for its good practice, energy performance use of passive design and renewable technologies to create a sustainable building while delivering a high level of comfort and performance for its visitors.

The building scooped Sustainable Project of the Year in the Building Awards 2013, fighting off stiff competition from seven other contenders. The critics described the Hive as “truly impressive”, praising its design, which is based on allowing as much sunlight into the building as possible. They were also impressed by the gold-clad cones which contain glazed rooflights and vertical glazing, as well as the low energy lighting. The use of the river Severn for water chillers, and a rainwater tank, that collects water dripping off the roof to flush the toilets were also factors in the award.

Outstanding Library Team - Times Higher Leadership and Management Award - June 2013
National Award and Regional Award - RIBA - May 2013
Sustainability Award - RIBA Awards West Midlands - May 2013
Award for Design and Innovation - RICS Awards West Midlands - May 2013
Community Benefit Award - RICS Awards West Midlands - May 2013
Sustainable Project of the Year - Building Magazine - April 2013
Civic Trust Award - March 2013
Contribution to the local community through The Hive - Guardian University Award - February 2013
New build project of the year (value above £5 million) - CIBSE - February 2013
Building Excellence Award - South Worcestershire Building Control - 2012
Building of the year - Post Tensioned Society Awards - 2012
BREEAM Outstanding 86.4% - June 2012
Best Sustainability in a Project - Public Private Partnership Awards - May 2012
West Midlands Regional Planning Award -2012
Innovation in Generative Design - Bentley Be Inspired: Infrastructure Best Practices Symposium and Awards - October 2009

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