Stanislaus County Library: Using meaningfulness as a catalyst for success

The Stanislaus County Library in Northern California was part of a project to revitalize the community, with Dewberry brought on as lead architect for the 5,000-square-foot design-build project.

By Will Oren September 22, 2021
Courtesy: Dewberry

As A/E/C professionals, Dewberry thinks the secret ingredient for success is considering meaningfulness in everything we do. To do so we must consider the following:

  • What is the need for the project?
  • What is my/our connection to the project?
  • What is the projects connection to the community?

Meaningfulness is essential because it creates a decision-making compass and carries the morale of the project team through difficult times. Meaningfulness also raises the quality and commitment of one’s work.

For the Stanislaus County Library in Northern California, we found meaningfulness in the personal relationships we developed working on the project, the desire for the community’s youth to thrive, and to help the community take a symbolic step forward from the difficulties it has faced in its past.

Completing a Personal Project by Telework and on a Tight Budget

Stanislaus County has had its fair share of difficulties in the last 15 years—economic and social. To revitalize the community, the county decided to rally its support behind new community facilities for its residents. Dewberry was brought on as lead architect for a 5,000-square-foot library design-build project to round out the community spaces already completed.

The entirety of the project was designed and implemented during the pandemic, meaning, technology and budget constraints challenged us at every phase. Our team needed to navigate providing exterior redesign, site redesign, and new amenities onsite while working from home. Unlike most projects, we worked redesigns directly into the design and construction documents and issued change orders while keeping to the schedule. We worked closely with our builders, estimators, and the county to present ideas until consensus was gained.

Cost was another major challenge for the project. We used a variety of interior and exterior cost-saving designs to meet the budget goals. Some of our cost-saving measures included:

  • Redesigning the entire skin of the building from a close clad stucco system to one that combines rain screens, Hardie panels, and metal panels
  • Using vinyl instead of aluminum windows
  • Redesigning the canopy from a true roofing structure to a framework of a roofing canopy
  • Turning the garden into a covered courtyard, which reduces the expense and provides additional functionality for the space
  • Simplifying the parking lot to provide greater circulation
  • Implementing design-appropriate twig benches
  • Optimizing mechanical routing to minimize duct work
  • Redesigning the entire ceiling from a high-vaulted acoustic tile ceiling to a three-cloud ceiling
  • Implementing affordable lighting that still met the library’s design intent

Our team was also responsible for the interior design and finishes. The project started as one primary color and set of materials, but we later switched them all out after working with the library to pinpoint what would work best with their program.

Courtesy: Dewberry

Courtesy: Dewberry

A Community United

Ultimately, the project would never have gotten off the ground without the community’s support. The county worked tirelessly with the community to pull together the necessary funding. Additionally, the land that the project was built on was donated to the county to make the project possible from the get-go.

In fact, during construction, we discovered artifacts of an old stamped piece of concrete, dated back more than 80 years, that was used at a square-dancing club. We were able to cut out the concrete and create a plinth and monument to recognize the history of the site.

The project marked a symbolic turning point for the community. Love for the project and what it meant to the community was the primary motivating factor for everyone involved. We anticipate personal relationships we built with the county, community, consultants, engineers, and the builder will be long lasting. In fact, we have already partnered with the same builder on three additional projects. It brings us great joy that we could deliver a project that could help a tightly knit community move away from some difficulties in its past and look forward to a fruitful future that centers around the development of its youth.

Courtesy: Dewberry

Courtesy: Dewberry


This article originally appeared on Dewberry’s website. Dewberry is a CFE Media content partner.

Original content can be found at