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AHR wins planning for new UK Hydrographic Office building

Planning has been approved for the new UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) building at Admiralty Way, Taunton. Designed by AHR, the 11,000 sq m facility will replace existing buildings that are inefficient and expensive to maintain, providing up-to-date technology infrastructure and working conditions that will enable the organisation to sustain a long-term future.

The modern three storey office building is designed to accommodate 700 desks in open plan arrangement with flexible floor plates with extensive meeting, breakout and collaboration spaces.

The UKHO’s brief was to encourage a ‘one team’ approach, in contrast to their current cellular buildings. This has been achieved by arranging two wings either side of a central atrium. Open balconies and bridges create physical and visual connection between all parts of the building resulting in an impressive sense of openness for such a large facility.

The ground floor contains a meeting suite, training rooms, recreation and dining areas and administration offices. The upper floors are split into four open plan office spaces arranged around central core facilities.

The central atrium contains a feature stair that leads to wide bridges which provide access to the wings and breakout space. The bridges step diagonally across the section to create an unrestricted view upon entering the building.

Each wing will accommodate 70 workspaces and collaboration between teams is achieved on broad four metre wide bridges which cross the atrium and cater for a variety of meeting and breakout activities. Each office has access to an external balcony.

The design builds upon AHR’s experience of designing low energy naturally ventilated workplaces at the BCO National Award winning Keynsham Civic Centre offices.

Passive sustainable features include an exposed concrete frame and generous 3.6 metre floor to ceiling heights creating impressive levels of natural daylight.

The glazed atrium roof consists of 203 roof lights which open to allow natural ventilation. Sinuous oak clad baffles hang from the atrium roof and reinforce the visual concept of linear movement through the atrium.

These baffles provide acoustic absorption and are an integral part of the passive environmental design shading and reducing glare to the offices below by diffusing low angle sun to create a consistent level of daylight.

The elevations seek to reinforce the concept of horizontality that is present in all aspects of the design. Linear brickwork and timber cladding reinforce the sense of linearity and long ribbon windows feature regular openable louvres for natural ventilation and night time cooling of the concrete frame.

Karle Burford Director at AHR said ‘AHR is delighted to be moving forward with the next stage of this project. We hope the new facility will provide an inspiring workplace and enable the UKHO to deliver world class service to its global customers’.

Construction is due to begin in spring 2017 with occupation in Autumn 2018.