Miller Hull

Stevens Ranch Library

Deschutes, Oregon
Designed to speak to the young, old, studious and synergistic, the Stevens Ranch Library will have a space - and be a place - for everyone.
Client Deschutes County
Certifications Targeting LEED Silver
Size 100,000 SF


A library means something different to everyone. For some, it’s a place to do research. Others come to read in peace — to write, to code, to collaborate. The new Stevens Ranch library will be one that acknowledges these different user groups and will accordingly make a point to welcome them all. With spaces that speak to the young, old, studious and synergistic, the Stevens Ranch Library will indeed be a place for everyone.

One of several new libraries being built, Stevens Ranch represents part of an effort by the county to revamp its library system to accommodate the changing standards and pedagogies of modern life and learning. At over 100,000 square feet — a significant scale for a community library — Stevens Ranch uses its three stories to highlight the diverse experiences that can be found within.

Connecting Communities
As part of system-wide emphasis on visitor experience, the Library network of Deschutes County is reorganizing the entire collection, doing away with the traditional Dewey classifications and creating a more accessible set of categories. The collection will soon be shelved by distinct genre groupings, each section identified by intuitive labels that are similar to the organization of bookstore and encourage browsing and exploration.

Part library, part museum, part “retail” space — Stevens Ranch will also be increasing its own “Library of Things” collection, which enables visitors to borrow beyond the book. With a robust assortment of tools and objects, it allows patrons to check out anything from an air fryer to a sewing machine to a fly-fishing kit. By encouraging borrowing rather than buying, this system allows people to “try things on” without a financial commitment, creating the opportunity for people to experiment with subjects — with hobbies, and to continue sustaining a lifelong journey of curiosity.

Creating and experimenting are demonstrably prioritized at Stevens Ranch, and its spaces that are devoted to epitomizing these ideals. Creative spaces include equipment and flexible space to host a variety of activities for all ages; from crafts, to quilting, to emerging technology and more. When not in use with scheduled programs, the spaces open up and allow users to come in and use the space doing their favorite hobby:

A departure from convention extends to the various adult spaces, as well. Because of the increase in the number of remote workers coming to Deschutes County, there is greater demand for coworking spaces that don’t create any cost impediments. The new library will respond to this heightened need by providing rooms that can support all types of ambitions and dynamics — from the virtual employee to the student to the entrepreneur. The library will additionally be leasing space out to a local coffee company, supplying guests with the opportunity to refuel and linger.

Early Learning
In an effort to more deeply engage children beyond the simple provision of games and books, the children’s area will be filled with interactive elements that stimulate curiosity, encourage exploration of the collection, and provide hands-on interaction for children and caregivers. “Trailheads” are dynamic moments inserted into the collection intended to create this kind of engagement. These interjections prompt young ones to answer questions surrounding the collection, like “What is the funniest book you know?” and then urge the children to share that book with another young reader. Mobile Carts that dock into the shelving can roll out and around the library to support activities throughout the floor—or travel to other branches. Physical landforms allow for more motor skill discovery of space, color ,and sound.

Exterior Design
As a high desert area, Central Oregon’s arid landscape is filled with brush and dust and intense sun exposure. To control daylight in the design of Steven’s Ranch, a shingled facade allows for views to the landscape, while keeping the interior protected from unwanted solar heat gain. Reducing mechanical load and increasing occupant comfort, these shingles function without concealing any part of the window, maintaining the views west towards the mountains.

Reflecting the nature of its surroundings, the library’s base is made of regional stone and dry-toned metal, while its staggered roof line mimics the mountains in the distance with its undulating roof plane – human-made peaks and valleys. Functionally, the sloped roof helps break down the multi-story space, enabling different types of spaces defined by ceiling height. One such space – the soaring atrium in which one finds themselves when entering the building – inspires a grand sense of arrival, while its openness functions as a wayfinding element, communicating a defined architectural menu that immediately orients visitors.

A holistic framework of sustainability goals and performance features designed to achieve LEED Silver at minimum will create a library that is a community asset for years to come.

Our team established that a better-than-code building envelope would help the building reduce the energy demand and provide comfortable temperatures for occupants. All-electric and efficient equipment will reduce operational energy use and support indoor occupant comfort. A large photovoltaic array will provide all renewable energy for the library and a small battery backup system provides some resilience capability.

Efforts to reduce the embodied carbon of the building occurred by setting global warming potential targets, using concrete efficiently, and making meaningful choices for both exterior cladding and interior materials. The project’s interior design will enhance occupant health and wellness through daylit spaces with natural ventilation, enhanced mechanical filtration, and reduced chemicals of concern to improve indoor air quality.

Structural Design in Mass Timber
With mass timber occupying a 50% lower carbon footprint than concrete or steel, the design team aspired to maximize the use of mass timber in this 100,000 square foot building. This ambitious act was aided in our selection of Type III-A construction, a type of construction that permits building with wood it’s one-hour fire protected.

Acoustic dowel-laminated timber (ADLT) is also used for the floor deck system which measures eight feet wide by 40 feet long, a size that creates enough support and mass to forgo the slab of concrete that is typically needed with steel or concrete to prevent seismic racking of the columns that separate floors. With ADLT, the system can perform structurally as flooring, architecturally as a finish material, and acoustically as a sound absorbing feature.  With an additional sustainable benefit, the wooden strips that line the ceiling plate for sound absorption remove the need for the harsh materials that are typical with acoustic insulation.

The structural layout with a 12-foot bay and length of the building results in a distinct directionality of the building, almost like the ribs of a ship. This resulted in an overall structural efficiency with beams running east/west, which also provides long spans for open, column-free, and flexible library spaces. This is counter to the floor decks, which span only in the north-south direction. A regular 12-foot structural bay resulted in an efficient use of 2×8 ADLT for all floor decks and 2×6 ADLT at the roof deck.

A raised access floor system allowed our design team to coordinate mechanical systems, electrical conduit, and fire sprinklers below the floor reducing the number of exposed systems thereby leaving the ceiling, columns, and beams to be the primary expression of the building, clutter free, and with an immaculately warm wood interior enabled by the exposed ceiling finish. The strategic use of concrete core walls at the center bay of the building also provides the building with shear (a structural wall that withstands seismic instability) which eliminates the need for the steel diagonal braced frames common in other mass timber buildings. This resulted in a more consistent expression of the wood columns and beams as the expressed structural system of the building. Column-to-beam connections remain clean, as well, as the custom-designed connections are concealed inside the wood structure.

Project Team

Design Architect: The Miller Hull Partnership, LLP
Local Architect: Steele Associates Architects
Contractor: Kirby Nagelhout Construction Company
Civil Engineer: HWA
Structural Engineer: KPFF Consulting Engineers
MEP Engineer: Interface Engineering
Landscape Architect: Walker Macy
Lighting: Blanca Lighting Design
Signage: Mayer Reed
Early Learning Environments: Plus and Greater Than
Acoustics: Tenor Engineering Group
Envelope: Morrison Hershfield
ADA: Studio Pacifica