Thursday, September 17, 2015

ABA Libraries

By Michael Goldman with Deborah Marks, co-founders of Citizens for Sunnyvale Parks and Green Spaces

Deborah Marks is also leader of Sunnyvale Urban Forests Advocates

Here we are trying to determine why the Sunnyvale 2007 Library Bond issue was for $108M for a library (close to $1,000 / sq.ft.) and why the proposed branch library is estimated to cost nearly $1,000 per square foot.

Maybe it is the architect we hired now and in 2007?  Maybe they only do expensive projects?  Not in this case.  Everything we have seen so far suggests around $500/sq.ft. would be appropriate as seen in previous posts starting with lots of data here:
and continuing on with lovely real-life examples of CA libraries starting here:

So what is the experience of the current architect?  Anderson Brule Architect (ABA) has worked on five other libraries around the country so knows costs.  These libraries have all come in about the cost we have seen in other libraries - $400/SF to $500/sq.ft. - sometimes under $400/SF !  Can she say why the Sunnyvale bond issue was for $108M and the proposed branch library is estimated at nearly $1,000/Sq.Ft.?

The five libraries are:

1. Virginia Beach, VA (2014)
 (pop 450,000)
Cost: $43M / 125,000 Sq, Ft. = $344/Sq.Ft.

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It is a joint use library with Tidewater Community College - one of 11 Virginia Beach library outlets.  LEED Gold certified.  It is a lovely library and by no means "cheap" showing that you can do quite nicely at $344/Sq.Ft.  In fact, even if you double that cost, it is still only around 65% of the projected cost (per sq.ft.) of Sunnyvale's proposed Lakewood branch library.

ABA did not do the architecture.  ABA did some of the early pre-design work and interior design

According to their web site "With funding in place, Anderson Brulé Architects facilitated TCC and the City through the pre-planning work necessary to provide the appropriate decisions and information, including the conceptual space program, essential to inform the subsequent architectural design and construction documentation."
Click on photo to enlarge

This library was featured in the American Libraries Magazine's 2014 Library Design Showcase

Cost has been variously quoted as either $32M or $43M.  It is likely that the higher cost includes construction costs and "soft costs" like design, project management, furniture, etc. so I have used the $43M figure above.

RRMM was the architect:

Press coverage:

2. Redwood Shores Branch (2008) 
Redwood City
$11.7M ($15.5M) / 22,558 Sq. Ft = $543 ($720) / SF

We are fortunate that this is one of the libraries constructed with CA State Library Bond money so there was a detailed state audit of the project.  The "value of land" (the 2007 Sunnyvale bond issue would not have included this since we own the land already) was very high here so I subtracted it out to get the actual expenditures.  The higher number in parentheses includes the "value of land".

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ABA was the principal architect for this project.

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Above state audit information from

ABA's site:

3. Tully Community Branch Library (2005)
San Jose, CA
$11.7M / 26,000 SF = $450 / Sq.Ft.

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ABA was the principal architect providing:
• Master Planning
• Conceptual Design through Construction
• Architecture and Interior Design
• Fixture and Furniture Selection (FFE)

From the audit documents below we see that San Jose spent $11.7 Million on the library.  That gives a cost per square foot of about $450.  This is entirely consistent with every other library looked at.  Since we are looking at the total expenditures, the accounting "cost" of "value of land" is (we can reasonably presume) not included.

Click on photo to enlarge

Click on photo to enlarge

Above document available at:

ABA's web site:

4. Cambrian Branch Library, San Jose (2006)
$12.0M / 27,800 Sq.Ft. = $431/SF

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The data source for costs is the same as that for the Tully Library listed above.  While we do not have the detailed cost audit that we had with the state bond funded libraries we get a price per square foot consistent with every other library which did have such a detailed audit.

ABA was the main architect providing the following services:
• Master Planning
• Design through Construction
• Conceptual Design
• Interior Design
• Fixture and Furniture Selection (FFE)

We have the following from City of San Jose for costs:
Click on photo to enlarge

Click on photo to enlarge

Even if you add another 50% in for other items you get nowhere close to the $1,000/sq.ft. mentioned for the Lakewood branch library or the 2007 Sunnyvale library bond issue.

ABA's web site:

5. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library (2003)
$177M / 475,000 SF = $372/SF
(Joint use: San Jose State University & City of San Jose)

Click on photo to enlarge
You could double the 2003 cost per square foot to $744/SF and not get remotely close to the approximately $1,000 / sq.ft. asked for in the 2007 Sunnyvale Library bond issue and mentioned for the proposed Lakewood Branch Library.  But in fact this is strikingly similar to both the size and cost of the 2013 San Diego Main library discussed here:

There has been very little inflation in the US in wages or prices except for stocks and some local housing markets so the similarity in price/sq.ft. for both San Diego and San Jose is consistent.

ABA was not the main architect.  ABA provided the following services:
•  Community Outreach Process
•  Needs Assessment
•  Library Plan of Service
•  Operational Planning
•  Programming
•  Conceptual Design through Construction
•  Fixture and Furniture Selection (FFE)


Click on photo to enlarge

Principal Architect was Carrier Johnson.  Their web site:

ABA's site:

More information:

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