Austin Central Library

710 W Cesar Chavez Street, 78701
Lake|Flato Architects + Shepley Bulfinch Joint Venture
Hensel Phelps
Coleman & Associates


The 198,000-square-foot LEED Platinum Austin Central Library building serves as a model for sustainable resource use and library efficiency while promoting visceral connections to collections, history, culture, and place. The facility is based on flexible, blended spaces: indoor collections and reading rooms; outdoor reading porches; maker spaces; technology center; café; bookstore; 350-seat event center; art gallery; outdoor dining area; demonstration kitchen; and rooftop garden. The learning rooms for children and teenagers create designated spaces for different age groups to enjoy a part of the library tailored for them. Integrated artwork enhances this tech-focused environment by showcasing local and national artists. The Austin Central Library is a framework for lifelong learning that creates stronger, more resilient communities.


Overlooking Shoal Creek and Lady Bird Lake, the Austin Central Library is a building shaped by light and designed to respond to the context of Lady Bird Lake, downtown, and Austin’s unique sense of place. The intent to be the most daylit public library in the nation shaped the energetic six-story circulation atrium which provides daylight for more than 80% of regularly occupied spaces. The unique rooftop butterfly garden and reading porches respond directly to Austin’s climate and outdoor lifestyle while demonstrating the possibilities of urban gardening, rooftop green spaces, and interstitial microclimate habitats.

The building emphasizes the municipality’s imperative to serve the entire community including those experiencing homelessness, students of all ages, families, the fine, music, and culinary arts, and the casual visitor. The building embodies the shift in libraries from being reserved repositories of printed material to places for promoting knowledge and understanding through performances, demonstrations, exhibits, and hands-on production of culture.

During the opening days of the new facility, people were overheard marveling at the sophisticated design and remarkable feeling of significance as being the most “architectural” public space in Austin. Combined with the highest sustainable achievements, friendly vibe, and exuberant presentation of knowledge in many forms, this building sets a new, very high standard for citizens to demand in future public places. –  Riley Triggs, AIA

Sustainability Highlights

  • LEED Platinum (U.S. Green Building Council)
  • AIA Committee on the Environment Top 10 Award
  • Located on a redeveloped brownfield, 30,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and construction debris were excavated and appropriately disposed of prior to construction.
  • The site has 33% vegetated open space and a 36% reduction of impervious cover.
  • Rainwater collection eliminates need for potable water in irrigation and bathrooms.
  • A reused cistern from the neighboring powerplant is used to store grey water for irrigation.
  • A condensate collection system supplements rainwater to reduce potable needs by 40% (drinking water for 8,161 people per year).
  • The library runs on 100% renewable energy with 8% from onsite solar, 9% from natural gas, and the remainder from Austin Energy’s Green Choice.
  • 93% of on-site generated construction waste was diverted away from landfill.
  • 99% of regularly occupied space have views to outdoors.
  • 81% of the spaces are illuminated by natural light.
  • Energy reduction strategies account for a 39% reduction in energy use (enough energy to power 325 homes per year).
Photo Credits:

Atelier Wong Photography