Council’s Project Angel is creating a modern and sustainable office fit for 2,000 people on a site with history stretching back to the Middle Ages.
Project: Project Angel
Client: Northampton County Council
Contract value: £40m
Region: East Midlands
Main contractor: Galliford Try
M&E subcontractor: Briggs & Forrester
Cladding subcontractor: Glassolutions
Remediation subcontractor: Storefield Environmental
Start date: February 2015
Completion date: November 2016
Northampton’s Project Angel is all about workplace rationalisation. It will be the new home for 2,000 public sector employees – meaning contractor Galliford Try has had to work closely with local stakeholders and the client to get the building’s design and delivery just right.
The £40m project will see Northampton County Council workers move out of 12 separate offices and into one main building in the heart of the town centre.
Providing shared workspace for 2,000 people sounds daunting, with the council aiming for £51m in cost savings over 30 years by putting all its staff under one roof.
Contractor Galliford Try was named as preferred bidder for the project in September 2014 and signed a design-and-build contract in February 2015.
The firm has approached the building’s design with its future tenants firmly in mind, with a particular focus on local community engagement to maximise the scheme’s impact on the town centre.
A quarry? A brewery? A dump?!
The site is located on Angel Street, a stone’s throw from Northampton’s high street. The council estimates that moving its employees into one central office could generate a minimum of £12m in extra spending in the town centre.
“We took out what looked like an old tower crane base and some huge chunks of concrete”
Brian Scott, Galliford Try
But before construction could get fully under way, the Galliford Try team had to tackle complex remediation on a brownfield site whose history of use dates back to the 13th century.
“One of the biggest risks for any project is what’s in the ground,” points out Galliford Try project manager Brian Scott. “There was a brewery on the site at one point, dye works, even a power station. So with that you had chemicals, traces of asbestos and lead cabling.”
On top of that, archaeologists found evidence of an ironstone quarry, as well as signs that the site was used a rubbish dump by a 15th century tannery.
Mr Scott says samples of the ground were taken at the very start of the project, allowing the team to put a full remediation strategy in place with the help of specialist contractor Storefield Environmental.
Galliford Try Project Angel Northampton 5
Galliford Try demolished three vacant buildings on the site and took around 3,500 cu m of concrete obstructions out of the ground – “including what looked like an old tower crane base and some huge chunks of concrete”, according to Mr Scott.
Much of this concrete material was remediated, crushed and re-used for the piling mats. Once remediation was complete, construction of the building could begin.
Efficient top to bottom
The building is made up of a post-tensioned concrete frame over five storeys on a split level, with three floors of 4,000 sq m open office space. There are two further lower levels, plus an underground car park with room for 136 vehicles.
A total of 197 contiguous piles have been installed at the north side of the site, while the north part of the building will also include an open terrace area to act as the main entrance on Angel Street.
The south side of the building features structural glazing up to the ground floor.
Much of the building will be covered with highly detailed hybrid facade with large aluminium fins on each of its corners, which will project outwards around a metre from the building.
Galliford Try Project Angel Northampton 2
Designed to achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating, Project Angel aims to provide both a flexible and efficient working environment for the council employees – part of the council’s aim to save more than £50m in running costs.
“The main reason for this building is that the council has 12 sites around the borough and they cost a fortune to heat,” Mr Scott explains. “We want to make sure the heating and cooling of the building is as efficient as it could be, so we’ve used a mix of natural and mechanical ventilation.”
Designing and building a comfortable and open office environment is one of the main outcomes Galliford Try is aiming to achieve with the project.
A 17 sq m central glass atrium sunk into the roof gives an element of open space, while rooftop features include LED-lit wind towers to help with ventilation and photovoltaic solar arrays to assist energy efficiency.
Modular reduces manpower
The floor is also raised-access, which has allowed nearly all of the building’s services to be hidden either under the floor or outside the building, helping with the interior’s open feel, as Mr Scott explains.
“We have what we call ‘the railway track’ all the way around the perimeter of each floor, a covering which hides all the services that have to go in there – drainage for the roof and so on,” he says.
“But the majority of the services, including all IT cabling, are under the raised-access floor. The main lighting is all plugged directly into the floor, which minimises the lighting needed on the ceilings.”
Galliford Try has also used modularisation across the site, in keeping with the project’s open-plan and flexible working environment.
“There’s no point in buying something that’s the best but it’s made on the other side of the world”
Brian Scott, Galliford Try
Prefinished doors and doorframes have been used across the site, which will be installed after the carpets are laid. Mr Scott explains that one joiner can fit as many as 16 of these per day, helping to reduce labour demands on site.
“We’ve only got 100 men working on the site because the modularisation reduces that need,” he says. “Compared to some projects I’ve done in the past with 500-plus people, it’s much more flexible.”
He adds that there are only 265 doors in the whole project – “not many for a £40m scheme” – which has helped emphasise the openness of the office space.
Local spend stipulation smashed
As well as the doors, much of the underfloor and ceiling services components have been modularised and sourced locally.
This local engagement has been a crucial factor for Galliford Try across the project, with the contractor making a commitment to spend a minimum of £15m locally during construction.
Mr Scott says he is “well on target” to not only beat that £15m requirement but hit the £20m target set by the council.
“We try to buy locally wherever we can,” he says. “There’s no point in buying something that’s the best but it’s made on the other side of the world – when it breaks you’ll need to send all that way for a spare part.”
Galliford Try Project Angel Northampton 9
Galliford Try has appointed Northampton-based contractor Briggs & Forrester for the project’s M&E package, while the contractor is also aiming to engage the community through local recruitment and open days.
The team currently has 14 concrete pours left to finish, with handover to the council set for November this year.
Mr Scott admits it has been “a real challenge” to get the level of detail right, especially with so many different council teams moving under one roof.
But he says Galliford Try and architects BDP have “got the designs in place in accordance with how each department wants to work”.
The council hopes the building’s design will enable greater collaboration and partnerships across its different departments. Galliford Try meanwhile will be able to look back on turning this former brewery / dump / power station into a sustainable modern workplace.
Galliford Try Project Angel Northampton 3
A haircut above
The team has had 16 visits from local schools and colleges over the last year, and has hosted a number of evening ‘open site days’ for NVQ2-level college-leavers, where students can talk directly to the team to find out about trades and potential careers.
Galliford Try has also worked with the local job centre to run buddy schemes to help locals get into construction.
Mr Scott adds that one of the most important things for the project is keeping all the staff on site happy, and has added numerous touches to help achieve that – even bringing in an onsite hairdresser.
“It sounds stupid, but when the hairdresser comes offering haircuts for charity for £5, they all come down and have their hair cut,” he says. “We’re also looking at having an optician on site to give eye tests.”