Fostering a legacy in London

Updating classic buildings to suit modern office requirements, while staying true to the original design intent, requires skilful consideration. 200 Gray’s Inn Road is the work of renowned architect Sir Norman Foster, and his foresight proved generations ahead of the time.

Located in the heart of London this property was built in 1990 by ITN as its headquarters and broadcasting hub. The challenge for the owner, architect and design team embarking on a phased refurbishment of the building, was to modernise the fitout to ensure original design integrity whilst ensuring 24/7 operations for Britain’s largest independent news broadcaster.

200 Gray’s Inn road was first conceived by ITN as their purpose built headquarters,” says Ian Cartwright, Project Manager for Great Portland Estates, the property managers for 200 Gray’s Inn Road. “The Foster’s and partners design proved to be a unique scheme for an office building. Compared to most modern buildings, the structural loadings and floor to ceiling heights are completely different to the normal standards for offices today.”

Making the most of the design meant bringing the features of the building to the fore. Once the existing services were stripped out, a surprising discovery was made – a coffered slab. This unexpected element meant a shift in the design approach.

“Once we discovered this coffered slab the client brief changed, with the main aim of exposing the soffit to make a feature of the ceiling and actually have exposed services throughout,” says NDY Senior Mechanical Engineer, Ragz Padayachi. “This meant that we had to go back to the drawing board and change the services strategy.”

Redesigning the fitout to take advantage of the soffit meant completely rethinking the services strategy – a task that required a high level of collaboration between the architects, engineers and client.

“The key challenge is centred around clearing that high level slab of all the existing services – all the unnecessary services,” says Rob Smith, Senior project director for Overbury. “What was left was the high level zumptobel ladder frame fittings.”

The redesign meant that the mechanical services had to be moved to the outer extremities of the building, exposing the soffit, and reducing the noise and vibration being transferred into the broadcasting areas.

The 24/7 nature of ITN also meant that installing the services while the building was in operation required careful planning and minimal disruption of business operations.

Energy efficiency was also highlighted as a target by the client, which was addressed using simple but effective design elements. Glazed windows and walls reduced the amount of heat that could enter or escape the building, and LED lighting was installed throughout, providing reduction in waste heat and energy usage.

The fire strategy was a further challenge for the design team. The original exposed sprinkler system detracted from the ceiling features, so removing unnecessary portions of the system was identified as an area for improvement.

“We undertake modelling of the refurbished floors to look at the risks of fire spread,” says Richard Sherwood, NDY Fire Section Manager. “By doing this, we were able to show that the existing smoke control systems adequately mitigated any risk, and we were able to remove the sprinklers from certain feature areas.”

The refurbishment extended beyond the base building design, updating the tenancy fit outs to reflect the requirements of a modern office environment.

NDY was engaged by Warner Bros and Meta pack to complete a fit out design for their tenancies that took advantage of the architectural features in their space, while also providing them with the services infrastructure that they required.

“The nature of work undertaken by Warner Brothers means there are specific requirements for highly rated acoustic offices and meeting rooms,” says Ben Martin, NDY Mechanical Project Engineer. “As a result we altered the base build system to suit the needs of Warner Brothers.

“The meta pak fit out was very open plan, which suits the base build system well, however, we had pockets of high-density areas where we had to supplement with cooling to create an innovative solution by collaborating with the architect to implement the system,” adds Ben.

That collaboration allowed the refurbishment to achieve the functional and technical goals of the project, while still providing the aesthetic that emphasised the features of the structure.

“The relationship between architecture and engineering is key in this building,” says Ian McArdle, Principal of Ian McArdle Architects, the architecture firm behind the refurbishment. “We couldn’t ignore engineering, in fact we embrace engineering and bring it into the design so all the services you see that are exposed, it’s a whole view of architecture.”

The final result is a design that brings out the previously hidden features of the building, while enabling providing all tenants with a design space that supports occupants activities and wellbeing.

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