The vision behind the $76.5-million James B. Hunt Jr. Library project at North Carolina State University was nothing short of a redefinition of the modern research library, with one eye on the increasingly digital future and another on the benefits of interpersonal collaborations.

Designers Snøhetta and Clark Nexsen worked collaboratively with North Carolina State University Libraries—and specifically the group's director, Susan Nutter—to build this contemporary structure that anchors the Academic Oval at the school's Centennial Campus.

The 221,000-sq-ft building features a facade of fritted glass and a fixed external aluminum shading system—with more than 2,500 vertical solar blades—that helps diminish heat gain. A custom unitized curtain-wall system includes more than 800 units, with each varying in size, shape, position and color. To manage the curtain-wall installation, the fabricator bar-coded units. Then contractor Skanska USA used its BIM-based supply chain management system to track each piece through final install.

Another of the Hunt library's defining features is its automated book delivery system, or bookBot, located in the building's basement, which houses the facility's 2-million-volume collection. Library users can set the bookBot in motion by selecting a title using software accessible via iPads and other mobile devices and then pick the book up a few minutes later.

Instead of bookshelves, NC State opted to fill up the library with more than 100 small group study rooms. The facility also includes numerous tech-laden spaces, such as a teaching and visualization lab that offers 270-degree projection and 3D display; a 3D printing workshop; and digital media production facilities.

ENR Southeast's Best Projects judges were impressed. One called it "an extraordinarily well-designed and well-crafted building," adding: "The client went out on a limb to hire a design firm to define and create the library for the 21st century, and they were successful!"

The LEED-Silver-certified building was completed ahead of schedule in September 2012.

Best Higher Education-Research Project:

James B. Hunt Jr. Library, Raleigh

Key Players

Contractor Skanska USA Building Inc., Durham, N.C.

Owner North Carolina State University, Raleigh

Designers Snøhetta and Clark Nexsen, Raleigh

Structural Engineer Stewart Engineering, Raleigh

Civil Engineer ColeJenest & Stone, Charlotte, N.C.

MEP Engineer Affiliated Engineers Inc., Chapel Hill, N.C.