UK Hydrographic Office

A masterclass in beautifully integrated architecture and engineering. Hydrock’s multi-disciplinary engineering services helped deliver a new 11,000 sq m headquarters building for the UKHO which prioritises both collaborative and agile workspace.

UK Hydrographic Office atrium space.jpg

Winner of the RICS Awards 2019, South West Commercial Property award.

In collaboration with architects, AHR, main contractor, BAM, and cost consultant, Mace, Hydrock delivered a full multi-disciplinary engineering design role from inception to completion for the award winning new headquarters for UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) in Taunton.

The project was successfully delivered within an ambitious timescale – completing in January 2019, exactly three years after initial design work began in January 2016.

The UKHO is one of the world’s leading marine geospatial information agencies. The design of their new 11,000 sq m headquarters building represented a cultural shift within their way of working, prioritising collaborative and agile workspaces for the 850 staff, including a gym, a restaurant and meeting spaces.

The UKHO’s brief was to encourage a ‘one team’ approach, in contrast to their existing cellular buildings. The architectural and structural engineering design achieved this by arranging two wings either side of an 800 sq m central atrium with open balconies and bridges creating a physical and visual connection between all parts of the building resulting in an impressive sense of openness for such a large facility.

Structural engineering solutions

Our structural engineering design is based on a concrete flat slab structure. It was chosen because it worked well for the grid shape of the building, it is very effective for thermal mass, and it is good for services distribution.

This structural design solution ensures that by day, heat generated by people and IT etc. is absorbed in the slab, and at night the vents open so the heat can leave the building. The resulting exposed soffits have been designed to become part of the aesthetics of the structure.

On the outside of the building, the natural wood and brick finish conceal the concrete and adjoin perfectly together.

The dramatic central atrium contains a feature stair that leads to a number of steel link-bridges which provide access to the wings and act as break-out space.

The glazed atria contains 203 roof lights and is one of the key features of the building. The overall effect is achieved through unique V-shaped pre-cast concrete beams that form the gutter to the atria roof and support the extensive array of roof lights. The beams span 10.5m to 16m. The advantage of using pre-cast concrete beams is that no access is needed inside the building for repair or maintenance, whilst on the outside it is possible to stand in the gutter to gain access to clean the roof lights.

Building services solutions

The adoption of natural ventilation and the maximisation of daylight were central to the design ethos. The resulting services strategy delivers a space that supports employee wellbeing and a highly sustainable, low energy operation that has significantly reduced costs for installing, operating and maintaining fans, pumps and chillers.

A Building Management System controls the opening and closing of the top half of every window in the building, whilst occupiers can control the opening of the bottom half of each window to provide instant access to fresh air, giving them a sense of control over their immediate environment.

The building has exceptional levels of daylight. An exposed concrete frame and generous 3.5m floor to ceiling heights, coupled with the glazed atrium roof means that even in winter there is minimal use of artificial lighting, which is reducing energy demand.

The sinuous larch clad baffles, hanging from the atrium roof, provide acoustic absorption to improve the sense of wellbeing for building users. They enhance the ability for people to talk to each other at a normal level in an open plan office environment, and they are an integral part of the passive environmental design as they eliminate glare to the offices below by diffusing low angle sun.

Civil engineering solutions

Our civils engineers managed the external civils works through a process of phasing. With the new office being built on the existing car park, their approach was to ensure a new 500-space car park and security building was constructed first, changing access to the site to enable the main HQ building to begin construction.

Transport solutions

Our transportation specialists supported the planning application with a Transport Assessment and a revised Travel Plan for UKHO which recognised that this was a new building on an existing site. Our team also provided a re-design of the site access arrangements.

For over 20 years Hydrock has delivered award-winning engineering projects across a wide variety of sectors. Contact us today to find out how we can help your business.

Images courtesy of AHR