Water Music

The Environmental Engineer’s account by Piers Watts-Jones, Technical Director

The Gramophone Works is a unique project that combines the history and heritage of a culturally significant building with the functional requirements and environmental ambitions of a contemporary
commercial workplace. As environmental design and sustainability consultants, our job at Atelier Ten is to work in the spaces between architecture and engineering, providing design solutions that harness the architectural character of the building, and enable it to meet—and often exceed—the environmental standards of the day.

We provided consultancy on environmental design, building services, lighting design, fire engineering, energy analysis, benchmarking and facade optimisation. Working collaboratively with Studio RHE at every turn, we were able to ensure that the visual aspirations of the architect were achieved, while still providing the technical requirements of a building that is highly economical in its operational energy.

As an adaptive reuse project, much of the design of The Gramophone Works was necessarily dictated by the existing structure. Originally just two storeys tall with a basement, the old reinforced concrete frame required a creative approach if it were to maintain its functionality. Cross-laminated timber (CLT) was chosen as the core structural material in the refurbishment, and this now carries the building up to six storeys, dramatically improving the building’s environmental impact by minimising construction waste, materials and embodied carbon. These two building elements—the floorplates of the existing structure and material character of the CLT—guided our approach in finding environmental design solutions. From a technical perspective, we realised that ensuring the building functions on minimal operational energy would depend on the systematic zoning of the floor plates. This meant that we could modulate equipment to match the load occupancy of the building—through heat pumps which simultaneously manage heating and cooling, low-energy lighting which responds to occupancy, and spatial differences between perimeter and internal zones, depending on their relative exposure to sunlight.

This strategic zoning was key to minimising the building’s operational energy, but it was also influential in the architectural form of the building: coordinating the zoning through the down-stand beams of the original concrete structure allowed us to maintain the pared-back structural aesthetic that the CLT was rightly championing in the upper floors. This was particularly important when implementing the building services, which were designed to match and emphasise the exposed, industrial nature of the timber. Doing so in a way that maintained a sense of cohesion and coordination required their design and routing to be considered from the outset, so that they integrated with the zoning of the floor plates, and overall architectural form.

Synthesising the technical requirements of a high-performance building with architectural uniqueness, this project required a collaborative, creative approach to design, and strategy and construction. We’re grateful to have played our part, and look forward to seeing The Gramophone Works enjoyed by occupants, and the planet, for years to come.

This is excerpted from the NLQ issue 54; to read the whole article please visit NLQ Issue54