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Interserve builds itself an ingenious new HQ

Extensive staff consultation has informed Interserve’s futuristic new office next to Birmingham International Airport. Will Mann takes a look round.

Client: Interserve Group
Main contractor: Interserve Construction
Contract value: £47.5m
Region: West Midlands
Structural engineer: Arup
Steel frame subcontractor: Billington
Cladding and glazing subcontractor: Mac Roofing
Foundations subcontractor: RMD Kwikform
Start date: January 2016
Completion date: March 2018

From the outside, with its gleaming anodised aluminium cladding and stepped façade, it resembles a giant cruise ship or even a spaceship. Inside, the domed glass roof over the cavernous atrium brings to mind the revamped Birmingham New Street station, seven miles to the west. It feels stylish and futuristic.

This is Interserve’s new headquarters. Located next to Birmingham International Airport, the 20,700 sq m building will bring together 1,400 staff from four local Interserve offices in Erdington, Dudley, Redditch and West Bromwich, plus group business RMD Kwikform’s base in Aldridge.

Family business

The £47.5m scheme is being built by Interserve Construction, with contributions from a substantial number of group companies. Construction is currently around two-thirds complete and the site will be showcased to visitors during Open Doors next week.

Triangular on plan, the 22 m-high building is set out over six storeys, with spacious 3,000 sq m floorplates around the atrium.

It certainly feels very different to a typical contractor office. And it is unlikely that any contractor has put as much time, research and consultation into a building for its own staff before. This even included a competition to name the new office, with ‘Ingenuity House’ named the winner.

Interserve HQ Birmingham 6

Interserve HQ Birmingham 6

“The project has been people driven,” says Interserve programme and change director Maggie Kendall. “A key driver of the new office is retention.”

To its credit, Interserve did not shy away from asking difficult questions during the project’s planning process.

Open Doors 2017

Interserve is opening up the Ingenuity House site as part of Open Doors week: 27 March to 1 April.

To find out more about the initiative, and arrange a site visit, go to:

“We surveyed current workplace satisfaction,” Ms Kendall says. “George Road in Erdington, head office of the building operation, polled just 48 per cent. But those questions had to be asked so we could establish what needed improving, and get a yardstick for measuring progress when we carry out a post-occupancy evaluation once everyone has moved into Ingenuity House.”

Focus on function

Ms Kendall established focus groups within Interserve, each based on different business functions, to establish their individual requirements.

“Innovation staff have different needs to training staff,” she says. “We also involved our support services business, who will be running the building once it is finished. From these focus groups, we created briefs to give to the architects.”

Samsung Gear virtual reality technology was used to help plan the design, and makes it possible to ‘walk through’ the entire building.

Source: Interserve

Ingenuity House aims to foster a collaborative work culture. “The original design had lifts in the atrium, but we took those out to create more ‘collision points’ on central staircases,” Ms Kendall says. “Each floor has a kitchen area and breakout spaces – our message to staff is that you don’t have to do everything at your desk.”

The ground floor will feature an ‘innovation space’ that will showcase Interserve as a business, with interactive screens, project case studies and awards.


Interserve often points out it was the first BIM Level 2-compliant contractor under BRE’s certification scheme, and has used it extensively on Ingenuity House.

“The BIM model was initially created by the architect and updated every two weeks as the design developed,” says Interserve project director David Tighe explains. “A BIM station on site – read only – allows any worker to check the status of the project at any given time.

“We did a digital scan of the building once the structural frame was up, and then fed that back into the BIM model, which confirmed to us that everything was where it should be.”

The model has been used for programming (4D BIM), cost management (5D), and even included involvement from Interserve’s FM business (6D). “Operation and maintenance manuals would traditionally be created separately, but here we are doing them through the BIM model,” Mr Tighe says.

The Delos WELL Building standard has informed the design, Ms Kendall says. “Team zones are on the outside predominantly, where people will be working nearest to natural daylight. A ‘wellbeing space’ has been included, and after staff feedback, we’ve set up a social committee, to organise zumba or pilates classes, for example.”

Smart analytics

Not surprisingly, sustainability was another driver.

Sunlight modelling software was used to decide the optimum orientation, and the three cantilevers of the stepped profile – which extend out by 1,200 mm on each floor – provide solar shading.

The windows have Cool Glass coatings and fritting on the glazed roof dome provides further solar shading over the atrium. The roof includes 100 sq m of photovoltaic panels.

“Questions had to be asked, so we could establish what needed improving, and get a yardstick for measuring progress when we carry out a post-occupancy evaluation”

Maggie Kendall, Interserve

Interserve has worked with energy management firm Schneider Electric to make Ingenuity House a smart building.

The building management system will run on the office’s IT network – rather than its own, as is the norm – providing real-time data on how much energy the building is using.

Sensors will provide data on temperatures in different rooms, which can be moderated with turbo chillers, while motion sensors are linked to daylight levels and LED lighting. The intelligent BMS analytics package will even schedule an engineer to fix parts that are not working properly or producing high costs.

A smart app will include a building plan, the ability to book rooms or order food, and real-time travel information.

Interserve HQ Birmingham CGI 2

Interserve HQ Birmingham CGI 2

Transport was an important consideration for the hub’s location, which has a close proximity to both the airport and its train station.

“It gives us a high PTAL [Public Transport Accessibility Level] score, which gives us extra BREEAM credits (the target is Excellent),” Ms Kendall says. “We are implementing a green travel plan, and trying to encourage a modal shift towards public transport and car-sharing.

“Car sharers will be given priority in the car park (450 spaces above and below ground) and there are 60 cycling bays.”

For Ingenuity House’s future occupants, Interserve is organising a communication and education programme to explain how they should use the building and to encourage different ways of working.

“We want people to get past traditional work stigmas,” Ms Kendall says. “There is no point in people being stuck in traffic for an hour because they think they have to be at their desk at 8am.”

The leases on Interserve’s existing offices do not expire at the same time as Ingenuity House’s projected completion, but the plan is to move all staff in soon afterwards. Then follows the post-occupancy evaluation – workplace satisfaction scores may well be sky-high.

Keeping it in the family

From the earliest days of the project’s conception, Interserve’s intention was always to self-deliver as much of the new hub as possible.

“Around 25-30 per cent of the spend – £13m-£14m – has been kept in the group,” says project director David Tighe. “M&E took the biggest share. It wasn’t a ‘done deal’ internally though – every business had to prove their competitiveness.”

The job will also give Interserve valuable office construction experience, a sector it has historically lacked a presence in.

Interserve Strategic Projects (part of Interserve Construction) is main contractor. It managed the enabling works, which included demolition of a four-storey office block. Interserve Asbestos Services was used for the asbestos strip. Some 95 per cent of demolition arisings and excavation material was recycled for fill and piling mats.

The foundations are a piled solution, using 450 concrete bored piles, 600 mm diameter, to a depth of 20 m. The railway runs along one side of the site, and here 130 m of sheet piling was installed, 12 m deep. The trench formwork equipment for the foundations was all supplied by RMD Kwikform.

Billington Steel was selected as contractor for the unusual stepped frame design. “The beams are castellated to allow service runs, so Billington worked closely with Interserve Engineering Services (IES), who are delivering the M&E package,” Mr Tighe says. “All vertical risers were designed to run through the holes in the beams.”

The longest spans in the structure are up to 40 m over the central atrium.

The three cantilevered steps required bracing from 150 tonnes of temporary steel to support the permanent design, while the concrete floor slabs were cast on metal decks. This was designed by Billington and structural engineer Arup, and supplied by Interserve’s in-house temporary works business.

The M&E plant is all at roof level and comprises three plant rooms, with the photovoltaic panels on top of the largest.

“Interserve Support Services was also involved in the roof plant design to ensure access for maintenance was straightforward,” Mr Tighe says.

The cladding comprises horizontal bands of anodised aluminium with concrete soffits. “We ran a computer analysis of the solar reflectivity from the aluminium because of concerns about its impact on the railway,” explains Mr Tighe. “For that reason we went with a less polished finish to reduce the glare.”

The roof comprises a hot melt and built up felt system, and is heavily insulated.

Ingenuity House will be fitted out by Interserve rather than a specialist contractor, using its in-house joinery business. “It is a turnkey project,” says Mr Tighe. Raised access floors 150 mm deep will provide space for power and data cables.

Scaffolding on the project has been provided by Interserve Scaffolding Services, while some of the plant – including crawler cranes used for the steel frame – was supplied by Interserve Support Services.

Even the site eco-cabins and the canteen are being supplied internally, by Interserve Site Services and Interserve Support Services respectively.

Apprentices comprise 5-10 per cent of the workforce, which will be 230 at peak.

The project has been named a Considerate Constructors Ultra Site – one of the first six in the UK. Visitors during Open Doors week are likely to be impressed.

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