The best office retrofits are the result of excellent, holistic collaboration and cooperation between complementary team members – with a little ‘good voodoo’ thrown in to seal the deal.
That was one of the key messages to emerge from ‘Revisiting Retrofits: Building typologies for the office’, a webinar held last week to explore how different scheme designers across differing typologies had reacted to changes in office design.
Hawkins\Brown’s Seth Rutt said that his 53 Great Suffolk Street scheme, the reworking of a Victorian warehouse had benefited from close working, with ideas coming from many members of the team. ‘I think this building had good Voodoo, this project, because actually everyone in the team – and that's client, contractor, agents, design team – all came together in a spirit of mutual respect’. A central stair that allowed visual connectivity between the floors and promoted vertical circulation was one such suggestion, coming from surveyor Charlie Killen of Edward Charles & Partners. It also contributed to a £20 surplus per square foot on the going rental rate. Elsewhere, features include Venetian glass chandeliers and copper and brass handrails that have an antimicrobial properties – useful in the current climate. ‘This project had good voodoo because everyone was in tune with one another and worked in a spirit of mutual respect’.
Valentina Galmozzi of AKTII described the firm’s work with JRA on Frederick’s Place, a ‘medley of listed and unlisted buildings’ in the City, saying that the key challenges are always about the existing fabric. Retaining existing structure is the first step for a sustainable approach, she added. Grosvenor’s James Ennis, meanwhile, showed the developer’s work at 7 Holbein Place, which he felt shows ‘what you can do with a dated building if you put your mind to it’. The scheme to transform the ‘ugly duckling’ in its portfolio will be part of Grosvenor’s plans to become a net zero business by 2030 and also be the most sustainable office building it has ever delivered, in part due to the partners it is working with on the scheme. While Arup’s Emily Sutton described the engineer’s approach to working on 1 Finsbury Avenue, where it took a ‘pragmatic and considered approach to refurbishment in terms of heritage, performance and future use’.
Finally, Peta Nicholls of Buckley Gray Yeoman spoke about the YY building, the reworking of a building in Canary Wharf which was famous for its external ‘tickertape’ but which BGY is retrofitting with a new façade and improvements to its sustainability and natural light. ‘The first question we ask ourselves when we start a retrofit project is how much of that building do we unravel’, she said. Working with Waterman, the practice stripped this one back to structure in a bid to changing this former office into best-in-class office space, with new entrance space, flexible floorplate, new core and façade, adding around 25% more area. But by maintaining the building’s main structure, it saved over 10,000 tons of CO2, said Peta – equivalent to 7600 flights to Sydney, or the energy to make 798 million cups of tea.