// arthitectural / Architecture / Corstorphine + Wright | Derby Council House

Corstorphine + Wright | Derby Council House

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Client brief, the planning constraints, materials and method of construction, time-table, programme and budget constraints.

The Council House in Derby was always considered to be the right location for the principle office of Derby City Council, however after years of neglect the building had a huge backlog of maintenance the potential for them to stay in the building seemed unrealistic. During 2009 the Council had considered moving into new office accommodation and held a limited competition to explore other locations. However by the end of 2009 it seemed that other locations were not ideal and the potential of the Council House was considered again.

Whilst there had been numerous feasibility studies for the Council House undertaken over a considerable period none seemed to address the fundamental issues, how to make the building feel like a new building and embrace modern working practices. After a limited competition our practice was selected to develop ideas for the new Council House.

Whilst the brief was set, we were able to challenge the assumptions that had been made, particularly with regard to the historic status of the building. Although it was designed in the 1930’s by Charles Aslin, the then borough Architect, construction work which started in 1937 was interrupted by WWII it was not then completed until the mid 1950’s. The quality of the building was affected by this break with much of the finishes much poorer in quality to that originally envisaged. The building was intended to have a clock tower over the pediment and whilst the structure for it is in place, it was never completed.

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At the point of our appointment the building was Locally Listed it was clear that the building was not in great shape. The internal spaces whilst originally very cellular, had been further sub-divided making the internal spaces very poor. The most important spaces were considered to be the pediment steps, Mayors lobby, grand staircase, Mayoral rooms on the first floor and the council chamber.

The chamber whilst a reasonably impressive space, influenced by 1950’s aesthetics was not an original part of Aslin’s design and had a rather clumsy structure creating poor quality spaces both above and below it. Following detailed discussions with Conservation officers and the local conservation committee it was determined that the chamber should be relocated as part of the project. To safeguard the building during this design development stage a certificate of immunity was gained from English Heritage as well as producing a detailed heritage impact assessment alongside the Design and Access Statement.

The brief therefore was to develop accommodation for up to 2000 employees, create a public focused one-stop shop provide office accommodation for elected members and political areas as well as the creation of a new council chamber for public and private meetings. The construction budget was set at £30m, which included an amount set aside to address longer-term maintenance issues. Competitive tender returns meant that the Council were able to bring the project including all fixtures and fittings well below £30 m.

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The sustainable targets for the building were to achieve a BREEAM Excellent and an EPC of A. Being located at the edge of the River Derwent the potential to harness the power of the water instigated a project to build a hydroelectric generator. The generator which now delivers clean, renewable power to the council house and has lifted the EPC rating to A+ and an official rating of minus 25, with our final BREEAM score at 81.

The external fabric of the council house has been retained, albeit with a new entrance facing public realm space, complemented by a dedicated staff entrance, which originally formed access to the courtyard space. The fabric has been enhanced and the u-values of the façade substantially improved. Existing roofs have been reconstructed to modern standards, which further improve the insulation values. The central atrium space has been constructed with a steel framed structure and a large circular fanned roof light that defines the circumference of the chamber space. New floor space has been created using large spanning pre-cast floors and a new steel frame inserted within the existing building envelope.
The project commenced in January 2010 with planning gained by December 2010 demolition commenced in the summer of 2011 with completion in December 2012.

An environment that is safe, convenient and enjoyable to use by people regardless of disability, age or gender

The existing council house was a challenge for disabled users, and whilst it had two good lifts to access the upper levels, the council chamber and many of the member’s offices on the first floor were inaccessible to those with limited mobility. The public gallery was also problematic even for general users, because of narrow steps and fixed seating.

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The building now caters for all levels of disability, taking on board current thinking regarding those with limited mobility. The chamber has now been designed to allow members to sit within their political sections rather than where the disabled space is, and the public gallery makes provision for those in wheel chairs.

Office space has been designed to provide full disabled access with break out points, meeting rooms and WC facilities at all levels. Derby’s disabled access forum group were actively involved in the design on the building offering feedback during the design stages, they have a dedicated meeting space within the building for their regular meetings.

The Council House and the Council actively promote inclusive access as well as employing a wide range of staff on an equal basis, our building seeks to promote this too.

Location: Derby, UK
Architect: Corstorphine + Wright
Client: Derby City Council
Value: £30 m
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