Offices

No.6 Convent Place

Client:
HM Government of Gibraltar
Service:
Architect and Lead Consultant from inception to completion
Cost:
£6.5m
Current Stage:
Completed Sept. 2015

THE BRIEF

The design brief was to develop a new state-of the art office extensionwith along overduerefurbishment providing all the technological innovations needed to bring HM Government of Gibraltar Central Headquarters into the 21stcentury.

Its existing building dated back to the 1700’s when it was used as a Convent and then as a school in the early 1900’s.In the early 1980’s it became the present day use for the offices of HM Government of Gibraltar.

The new office building had to accommodatethe expansion of office space that was required toreduce the overcrowding within the various departments operating from No.6 Convent Place.Most of these departments had expanded through the years and had reached saturation point due to the shortfall of office space availability. The building needed to adjust itself to address its present problems by creating further additional office space.

The extension also had to provide a new Emergency/Civil Contingency Room with added conference rooms that would offer a better service to the many members of the community who do business at No 6. There would also be a new, purpose-built Press Centre inclusive of all the technology needed by today’s fast-moving media.

The existing building comprised of three floors with a small roof terrace at the top. The building itself had undergone various building alterations and extensions through its years of service and it was evident that quite a substantial amount of work had to be done toserve the new office building design.

The new extension presented itself with two clear open areas adjacent to the existing building situated along its east and south side elevation and surrounded within a densely populated building area.

DESIGN CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT

The new office building development had to accommodate and integrate a new office building that would service and assist the adjoining existing building.

Attention was given on the efficiency of the proposed internal office space layout and the additional mechanicaland engineering services that were an essential requirement within the building design. The need to emphasise the general distribution of the office and circulation space was carefully considered with a modern technological efficient office approach for its present day use and any future expansion if required.

The design concept wasprimarily based around the idea of creating a new ‘independent’ building that would unify the existing building, side by side. The focuswas also to bring in as much natural light into the building to create a modern office environment whilst maintaining and preserving as much of the sensitivity of the surrounding areas around the site.

It wascrucial for both buildings to interact with each other as communication between both buildings would enable a better interchange of the circulation space within.

The existing building structure was mainly made up of loadbearing masonry walls supporting the timber floors at each level. The connection between the new building and the existing building was primarily taken to be designed as an independent separate structure, therefore, isolating both buildings separately from any future loadings or settlements that could occur.

DESIGN SCALE STUDY

The internal nett areas within the existing building stood at 1100sqm and the new building extension came out to 2265sqm doubling its size with a total area of 3365sqm of usable space.

BUILDING CONSTRUCTION STRATEGY

Many factors had to be considered that would determine the type of construction that the new building would have to undergo. The fundamental areas that we had to study were as follows:

  1. Logistic approach due to the limited access into the site and surrounding areas.
  2. Maintaining the existing building in operation whilst undergoing construction on the new building.
  3. Completion of works (12-month construction period).
  4. Financial resources in maintaining a low-cost budget.
  5. Type of mechanical and engineering services
  6. Health and Safety factors.
  7. Minimise disturbances to nearby properties.
  8. Sustainability assessment.

Havingconsidered all the above we determined thatthe best available construction approachwas to design a structural steel frame that would deliver the time frame and minimise any disruption to the project in general.

The main advantages of using steel frame construction over traditional concrete frame structures were down to the following points below:

  1. Speed-of-build: A typical steel frame office of 400m² would take 2-4 months to complete, instead of 8 – 10 months using a traditional concrete frame.
  2. Cost: Reduced construction time would result in significant labour-cost savings.
  3. Adaptability: The weight of a steel frame building would be distributed evenly throughout its structure. This would reduce the need for interior supporting walls, allowing greater interior space.
  4. Stability: Unlike other building materials, steel would not warp, twist, crack, bow, swell, shrink or rot. Steel’s strength-to-weight ratio is unmatched.
  5. Flexibility: Steel buildings would settle easily on their foundations, minimising risk of superficial cracks etc.
  6. Internal environment: Steel frame technology, and the insulating materials it uses, would deliver a property with excellent thermal values (saving energy bills) and remarkably healthy air quality with no humidity.
  7. Façade: The render used on the outside of a steel frame building could be treated in a wide variety of finishes.
  8. Investment: The substantially reduced construction time meant a faster return on investment. This offered a significantly attractive advantage to our client.

The other main building material that would govern and achieve the progress and cost would be the envelope of the building.

The traditional construction building method has always been based on the cavity wall construction but in recent years the ‘Outsulation’ product was at the forefront in delivering the right specifications when dealing with the external walls.

With a solid block 225mm single leaf and a cost-effective exterior insulation finish system,this was what was best suited for this project. The system was largely based on a simple premise: an insulation that would be most effective when placed on the exterior of a building.  By bringing insulation to the outside of external walls, thermal bridging would be eliminated; a reduction in air, wind and moisture penetration through the system would also stabilise interior environments and minimise thermal shock.

Design freedom was also a fundamental aspect with the system as it could be installed over a variety of substrates. Expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation is a lightweight material and could be cut or grooved to various shapes and surface patterns.

The points below strengthened our choice:

  1. Energy efficiency: The‘Outsulation’ would enable the building to meet strict energy efficiency requirements. Heating or cooling costs would be demonstrably low in lieu of other exterior materials.
  2. Weatherability: The material was formulated to provide the utmost in weather protection, providing a resilient barrier against the elements.
  3. Durability: The combination of the system components provided unsurpassed long-term durability meeting the design requirements for use in virtually any location.
  4. Aesthetics: The finishes was available in a wide array of textures in both standard and custom colours. Our speciality finish enabled us to replicate a variety of real stone finish at a fraction of the cost.

Cost effective;‘Outsulation’ was easily adapted to our details and the installation was rapid, and routine maintenance was minimal.

Video release:

Site Construction Time-lapse