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Th!nkFM: Work hard at riding your building

19 June 2012

The major £30 million revamp of Hampshire County Council’s “asbestos-riddled, unloved” Ashburton building has missed its target of halving energy consumption – so far.


More than three years after handover, and winning a sustainable award, the building now called Elizabeth 2 Court is still undergoing fine-tuning.

Nonetheless, it’s been a greatest success, said Mike Chater, senior architect and sustainability design adviser at Hampshire County Council’s property services department.

The brief was to design and configure the office workplace and complete a fit-out. FM was integrated into the project that used aspects of the government’s “soft landing” handover process to fine-tune the running the building.

Ashburton Court with its dark cellular offices “wouldn’t have looked out of place in a George Orwell novel”, Chater told delegates to his case study session on the building.

“It had one desk for one employee but desks were occupied less than 50 per cent of the time. It was an unproductive workforce occupying an unloved environment.”

The design brief was to half energy consumption but nearly double occupancy, from 600 staff to around 1,100.

Now, three years after completion of the project energy consumption has been knocked back from 243 kW/m2 annually to 149 kW/m2 – a cut of 39 per cent.

“But did the building do what it had to do,” asked Chater. “That’s a resounding ‘yes’,” he said.

If you take the energy consumption per employee because the building has boosted its occupancy, the rate is 61 per cent lower, explained Chater.

The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers gave the building, which also houses a data centre and conference facility, the Sustainable Project of the Year award after it was finished in 2009.

But it is one thing to win a design award and another to teach the workforce to “ride their building”, as explained under the soft landing process.

Under soft landing, the project team make a long-term commitment to help run and monitor the building for some years after completion, instead of handing it over and then “not being seen for dust”, he said.

Chater recommended that staff be surveyed on their old building before they leave it or it is torn down – in Ashburton’s case it was cheaper to revamp than demolish. This can be a useful comparison to a post occupancy survey, he said.