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Candlebark School is not your ordinary school. Founded by children’s author John Marsden, it sprawls over 1100 acres, most of it bush, an hour north of Melbourne. When a new library was needed, the decision was made to put it underground, thereby preserving the view of the valley below, increasing thermal efficiency and providing a last-resort shelter from bushfire.

The library is an earth-covered timber structure sitting on a concrete slab, buried 0.5 metres below the ground at one end and meeting the natural ground level at the other. The exposed rim of the library’s roof is concrete, which connects and interlocks with retaining walls made from reinforced blockwork at the back. The roof’s core is lightweight, sheeted with plywood, yet capable of supporting its heavy load.

The success of the project relied upon the vision of Paul Haar Architects, the ingenuity of Keith Long & Associates engineers and the waterproofing expertise of Flex A Seal. Keith Long & Associates made significant contributions to the design of the structure, while Flex A Seal’s collaboration ensured an effective method was used to make the structure watertight and enable successful subsoil drainage. Flex A Seal also provided the membrane used to waterproof the earth-covered roof (a Flex A Seal PVC sheet membrane system).

The library was completed in 2011, winning six Australian Timber Design Awards the following year.

More than four years after its completion, the Candlebark library is an unqualified success – not only a beautiful, comfortable, versatile space, but also – more importantly – robust, intact and dry. This was an especially significant project for us as the environmentally sensitive, clever design and innovative construction techniques reflect Flex A Seal’s own values and sense of purpose.