The brief was to turn a derelict printworks in Nottingham into a vibrant and flexible information-economy office for an ever growing workforce. Here’s how the project team went about getting the job done
To create its UK operations centre, the US bank and credit card provider Capital One undertook the conversion of Boots The Chemist’s former printworks in the centre of Nottingham.
The three-storey industrial building of 24 800 m2 gross internal area was converted in phases between February 1998 and May 2000 to provide high-quality offices and associated spaces of unique character and flexibility. Some 1500 staff are now housed in the building, 60% of whom are call-centre operators.
Now one of the largest providers of credit cards in the world, Capital One has generated astonishing growth through innovative use of its database, its IT and its marketing techniques. The bank started business in the UK as recently as 1997 with many of its activities outsourced. The Nottingham project’s main aim was to bring most activities in-house and under one roof, while acting as a centre for recruitment and a springboard for new products and businesses. It was essential to open the phase one space in mid-1998.
The goals set for the new premises were that they should help attract and retain the best staff, provide flexibility and cost-effectiveness in use, and embody and promote the company culture. Combining all operations in one main location also meant that the many new employees could be integrated into a single team.
The choice of a city-centre location alongside Nottingham’s central train station and bus routes increased the catchment area for recruitment and reduced the need for in-house staff amenities. The decision to refurbish an existing building avoided protracted planning procedures, enabling very fast development of the first phase of accommodation. The redevelopment has become a catalyst for regeneration of the whole station district.
The project started with the aim of completing half the building by mid-1999, leaving the second half empty or subletting it. However, the great success of the UK business brought staff growth far beyond early plans. So, in late 1998, it was decided to fit-out the whole building as fast as possible, delivering it in several phases, despite noise disturbance.
In January 1998, the old printworks of Boots The Chemist stood grim, empty and semi-derelict in the heart of Nottingham. Although completed in 1951 and not listed, the building is a 1930s art deco classic, featuring white Portland stone facades and large metal windows.
Now converted within the existing shell, the industrial building matches Capital One’s accommodation needs, as well as its culture of openness. There are two huge floorplates of 10 000 m2 each, and a smaller second floor of 2800 m2. Ceiling heights of more than 7 m and a lack of internal walls make for spacious interiors, which are flooded in daylight through floor-to-ceiling windows, and on the top floor, through continuous northlights. The conversion retains the industrial building’s robust, functional structure and materials, particularly the reinforced concrete columns with mushroom capitals.
The design challenges were not just to refurbish the building but to reinvent how it was used. New cores, entrance and circulation routes were created to connect the floors in a logical way. Each is organised around a series of internal streets connecting different areas. The first is home to many of the call-centre staff within two grand column-free spaces.
Other professional and call-centre staff are housed throughout the remaining spaces on three floors. There is no differentiation in finishes or quality between professional and call-centre areas, reinforcing the flat, open culture of the business, and allowing total flexibility in use.
Most staff work in open-plan spaces arranged in team configurations. A few glass-fronted offices and meeting rooms help divide space and provide opportunities to introduce vertical surfaces for colour and the application of a rich range of information and branding.
In addition, formal and informal meeting spaces, and a convenience shop offer refreshments, as well as “romper rooms”, training rooms, a library and locker rooms with showers. Staff are encouraged to use facilities for out-of-hours social activities, resulting in an theatre, running, football, cycling, tennis and other groups.
A large staff restaurant on the first floor has the feel of a trendy restaurant or bar in a university town. The spectacular mushroom-headed columns and tall windows give this space a sense of vertical proportions. Adjacent to the restaurant is a collection of meeting rooms contained in an oval-shaped wall clad in vertical timber battens.
The deep-plan spaces are made attractive by plentiful natural light, which permeates through them from tall windows and northlights. The risks of glare on computer screens and heat gain or loss were overcome by replacing all the original single-glazed metal windows with matching double-glazed units. The rooflights were replaced and sun-sensitive automatic blinds installed. At the first floor, a mezzanine was created around the perimeter of the grand space with translucent multicoloured polycarbonate panels at the upper level; these screen out any glare from external windows and hide services equipment on the mezzanine.
The building has underfloor displacement cooling in most areas, with exposed extract ducting at high level, but where the structure interferes with natural air circulation, a fan-coil system has been introduced. A raised floor throughout provides access for voice, power and data cabling.
The project has never really finished, as continuous changes and rapid growth have meant that the building planned for 1100 staff now contains 1500 and is still growing. However, the robustness and simplicity of the design, layout, services and finishes allows Capital One to mould the building to its changing business needs.
<b>Cost management and procurement</b>
As Capital One’s criteria for the project were speed of delivery and responsiveness to change, construction management was the chosen form of procurement. Construction of a complicated, high-intervention refurbishment project was therefore able to start with the minimum of design information available, and hand over large areas for occupation within four months.
The original project for 11 150 m2 (45% of the building) had a total budget of £13 905 000, or £1239.93/m2. The works comprised:
- Complete stripping-out of the building back to shell, including total removal of parquet floors and cores
- Replacement of M&E services installations
- Replacement of northlights and roof linings
- New replacement cores and main entrance
- Replacement windows and blinds
- General repairs to the envelope
- Complete fit-out of the office space to include specialist areas such as meeting rooms, training rooms, communications room, production facilities and restaurant
- In November 1998, the decision was made to add the remainder of the building (13 567 m2), which resulted in an additional cost of £14 458 000, or £1063.18/m2. This was slightly less than the first portions of the building, due to most of the heavy structural and repair works having been carried out in that phase. The overall cost of the whole building was therefore £28 363 000, or £1143.05/m2.
- The procurement and cost management of the project had to cope with the following factors:
- Fast-track start on site with minimum design information
- High proportion of negotiated trade contracts
- High rate of client variation and change, including changes of use of space and sequence of handovers
- Intensive refurbishment of existing building
- Phased occupation of the building as space becomes available, with resultant restrictions on building noise and disruption to occupants
- Fastest possible delivery of space to cope with dynamic recruitment growth.
- The project was handed over on time, with the final total cost more than £500 000 within budget. These results could only have been achieved with a concerted team effort, in combination with several key initiatives:
- Procurement and management of suitable trade contractors. Contractors had to be checked for a high degree of reliability in quality and meeting deadlines. They were selected not only for their capacity and skill, but also for the attitude of their management and staff.
- Close involvement of the client in design development and signing off. The client’s project manager was a qualified architect experienced in design management. He acted as coach and enabler to the team, developing the brief, providing feedback to design proposals, organising client sign-off and encouraging value engineering.
- Maximisation of site design resource. The design team was represented on site throughout the contract, which improved the flow of information as well as providing a ready response to trade contractors’ design and construction.
- Regular design and value-engineering workshops. The input of trade contractors and construction management improved the cost-effectiveness and buildability of design solutions.
- Client’s encouragement of teamwork. The entire project team, from client and designers, to site operatives and suppliers, was encouraged to be flexible and proactive, with an acceptance of frequent change and a willingness to sort out problems through co-operation.
At-a-glance guideCapital One UK operations centre, Nottingham
Conversion of 1950s city-centre printworks into bank’s UK operations centre, including call centre and offices
Capital One (US bank and credit-card issuer)
Nottingham city centre
Existing building recycled to save resources and time
Dynamic growth of company during development period led to 50% expansion in accommodation requirements and accelerated design and construction
Start of site search: mid 1997
Phase one opened: June 1998 (250 workplaces)
Original project finished: April 1999 (525 workplaces)
Whole building finished: April 2000 (1500 workplaces)
Daylight and vitality introduced into industrial building, while conserving character of shell
management with phased handovers allowed construction programme to be accelerated
Total outturn cost of £28 363 000 for 24 800 m2 gross internal floor area, including fitting-out.
Unit cost £1143/m2.
Development teamclient Capital One
property strategy and site search Jonathan Edwards Consulting
architect and space planner DEGW
structural and environmental engineer WSP
cost consultant Davis Langdon & Everest
conservation of building shell Watts & Partners
graphics Robert or Lucy
catering consulting Turpin Smale & Humble Arnold
fire engineering Global Risks Consulting
construction manager Woolf