Blog ‘Office Refurbishment’

December 21, 2017 4:50 pm

dhbArchitects have worked on a number of office refurbishment projects where clients have opted to relocate their business into old properties closer to the centre of towns. Quite often the buildings are protected structures which means that the planning authority considers them to be of special interest from an architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical point of view. Whilst there are significant challenges from an architectural perspective there are many opportunities and the end result is an exciting mix of ‘old & new’ which respects the historical significance of the building but equally celebrates modernity through technology, material selection, bespoke furniture, lighting and overall ambiance. Below is a non exhaustive list of lessons learned:

01: Finding compatible uses for our old building stock breathes new life into our towns and cities and promotes vibrancy and can help improve the town’s economy. There is a greater sense of connection with your town or city.
02: Heritage grants are available for conservation works. We have successfully secured funding for clients for repair works to the original fabric of the building. As conservation architects we apply on behalf of our clients and ensure that the work is carried using the best conservation principals to sure compliance with the grant conditions.
03: Planning permission will be needed for any change of use. For example if you are transforming an old bank building into your new headquarters this will need planning. Generally planning authorities favour applications where vacant buildings are becoming occupied once the use is compatible with the building and the design respects any conditions in the local development plan. At dhb Architects we always meet with the planners and conservation officers at an early stage to ensure the correct direction has been chosen.
03: The volumes and ceiling heights in some of older buildings are much greater than their new-build equivalent in many cases and can provide exciting work and meeting spaces that impress clients and inspire creative work.
04: Before any major works are undertaken we always suggest that the client commission ‘minor enabling works’. This is where a builder will remove parts of any finishes that hide the existing fabric of the building such as carpets, suspended ceilings and drylining. This gives the design team a better understanding of the building condition and will allow for more accuracy when preparing final drawings and specifications for future major works.
05: Quite often a new service core needs to be inserted including a new lift. If the building has a basement an hydraulic lift may be appropriate. It is essential to check the height restrictions. A normal lift will need at least 3.5m above the final floor for plant and machinery. This means it may have to pierce the roof finish.
06: Flexibility is key. All rooms should have WIFI and multiple outlets for service connections.
07: At dhb Architects we try to meet with all the future users of the building to hear their preferences for working spaces. Involving as many stakeholders as possible at early design stages can help overcome future settling in problems.
08: A key challenge is the design of new heating, electrical & IT systems. The traditional approach of putting in suspended ceiling tiles to hide a network of cables is practical and can help with acoustics but quite often these ceilings hide beautiful plaster work and change the proportions of the rooms. Equally visible plastic ducting with electrical cabling is a cheap but unsavoury solution. We prefer where possible to locate services beneath floor boards or in new visible galvanized steel ducting where service routes are carefully designed to minimize negative impact on the spaces.
09. We encourage clients to invest in solar panels or at least install the infrastructure for future installation of panels. High pitched roofs can offer a tremendous opportunity for power and hot water.
10. Finding parking for staff can often be an issue. However local arrangements are made all the time between public and private providers of parking at very favourable rates.
11. Finding premises big enough to take a large workforce is a challenge but remember you can quite often add another floor. It can suit start up companies, incubation centres or co – working facilities.
12. Refurbishment costs for 2017 were between €2,000 & €2,500/m2. This is nearly twice the cost of new build. However investing in our heritage is like investing in a piece of art that gains in value over time. It has been our experience that clients, especially international clients are very favourably disposed to doing business in our refurbished offices. These buildings reflect us as a people and a nation. They have personality and identity.

Prepared by Máire Henry director dhbArchitects.>