New Taunton headquarters for the UK Hydrographic Office reaches completion

The new headquarters for the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO), based in Taunton, has reached completion providing a unique and inspiring office building for one of the world’s leading marine geospatial information agencies.

A design team consisting of architects AHR; engineers Hydrock; cost consultant Mace; and main contractor BAM, collaborated on the 11,000 m2 office building, providing the organisation with a bespoke headquarters that includes high spec office space, staff restaurant, gym and meeting facilities.

The project represents a cultural shift within UKHO’s way of working, prioritising collaborative and agile workspaces for the 850 staff. The brief was for a building which cultivates collaboration and provides a modern way of working with the ability to accommodate future business needs.

Arranged around a dramatic 800 m2 atrium, the building accommodates 700 desks across flexible floor plates which are broken down into 10 smaller neighbourhoods with a range of work settings including team tables, scrum areas, height adjustable desks and quiet work zones.

Adam Spall, regional director at AHR, said:

“The UKHO’s aspiration was for a ‘one team’ culture. Our design for the new headquarters has accomplished this through the use of generous staircases, open balconies and wide bridges which create physical and visual connection between all parts of the building resulting in an impressive sense of openness for such a large facility.”

The design concept took inspiration from the hydrographic office’s work, following the theme of ‘Seabed to Surface’ with images of strata, contours and water currents influencing the aesthetic design throughout.

Jo Funnell, UK Hydrographic Office, said:

“I am delighted with the outcome of the project and the standard of the building. The collaboration between all parties has been the key to the project’s success. The new environment will support smarter ways of working at the UKHO, using new technology and modern office practices, which is hugely exciting for our business. The design and quality of the building is something we can all be very proud of having delivered in Taunton.”

The building takes a very robust approach to sustainability adopting natural ventilation wherever possible. Thermal comfort models were undertaken by Hydrock to ensure that the ventilation strategy was robust enough to meet current and future climate demands. 

Outstanding levels of natural daylight is owed to the glazed atrium and generous 3.5 metre floor to ceiling heights, helping to reduce the need for artificial lighting. The project is on course to achieve BREEAM Excellent and follows the Government’s Soft Landings (GSL) process, which provides a 3-year post-handover period to enable the UKHO to get the best out of their building and optimise the environmental systems.

Hanging from the highly glazed roof are sinuous timber baffles which reinforce the visual concept whilst providing perfect acoustic control, diffusing daylight and eliminating glare.

The project was successfully delivered within an ambitious timescale – completing exactly three years since initial design work began in January 2016. Main contractor BAM, achieved this by splitting the project into two phases that allowed carpark construction to be undertaken whilst design and costing were completed for the headquarters. A collaborative two stage tender process led by Mace followed a robust value management approach to ensure both quality and value for money.

Dermot Parkinson at BAM, said:

“The atrium roof showcases our use of innovative, modern methods of construction within the delivery of this new headquarters. Designed as a kit of precast concrete elements and cast off-site only 5 miles away, it was installed using a 300-tonne crane in just 6 weeks. The 200 modular rooflights were installed safely from above, without the need for scaffolding and delivered significant time efficiencies”.

The whole project was modelled to BIM Level 2 with detailed inputs from the BAM supply chain that ensured all the exposed services were fully coordinated. A simple palate of materials (brickwork and larch cladding) along with early input of the supply chain has resulted in a robust and well detailed building that deliverers exceptional quality throughout.

Throughout the design process the new headquarters has aspired to a very high level of specification, always exceeding the ‘minimum standard’ in order to ensure that this highly durable and agile building that can meet the organisation’s needs for decades to come.