Former Mill Road Library

Mill Road, Cambridge

This high-profile Victorian Grade II listed building on Mill Road, Cambridge was vacant for several years, and at risk, due to extensive damp issues. We undertook a condition survey, which informed our proposals to address the extensive damp being caused (these were mainly due to the failing rainwater system, poor ventilation and lack of regular maintenance).

The aim of the project was to repair, conserve and restore the historic shell fabric of this handsome building so that it could be used.

Our repair and renewal strategy was underpinned by our conservation and sustainability principles of ensuring the building’s natural ability to ‘breathe’ – this influenced where, and how, we employed design solutions. We concentrated on the use of appropriate materials, supported by natural ventilation and regular maintenance – both internally and externally. We also designed adaptations to rainwater goods, mainly to address the increased rainwater capacity due to climate change.

Internally our proposals included new resin lining internal downpipes; renewal of defective plaster and timber. The repairs to the clerestory glazing to allow full operation was a key undertaking – a discrete automated opening system was installed which could be operated both manually and via thermostatic control, thus providing natural ventilation to the whole space. These repairs now allow natural daylight to flood the interior of the building and have returned the space it to its former glory.

External work was also undertaken which involved brick and stone repairs, renewal and consolidation; and replacement lead roofing. Once on site, additional items were identified needing urgent attention – these included hidden steels within the roof structure; lath and plaster ceiling to the barrel vault; stabilisation of external stone and brick and repairs at high level to the parapet. The central roof lantern was also restored, including structural timber repair, renewal of the lead and timber repairs and redecoration to the windows.

In January 2022, the Former Mill Road Library was shortlisted for the Greater Cambridge Design and Construction Awards 2022.

Images taken by Damian Griffiths.

Before and After