For its Glasgow headquarters, BT took no chances and put in its own team to shadow the developer's consultants, with the power to halt the project. Not everyone was happy.
If the consultants working on BT's new headquarters in Glasgow experienced a sense of paranoia, who could blame them? In a belt-and-braces approach to getting the building it wanted, BT appointed an entire secondary team of architects, QSs and engineers to watch over them.

This Big Brother scenario came about because of the unusual way BT ended up procuring the building. It usually buys and develops sites itself, but in Glasgow, it plumped for Atlantic Wharf, a magnificent city-centre site on the banks of the Clyde. The snag was that it came ready-made with outline planning permission and a team of consultants employed by developer Pillar Property.

Buying the site was not an option, so BT signed a develop-and-construct deal with Pillar. But the client was concerned that it would inherit a shell and core that would not suit its advanced workspace ideas, such as hot-desking. Ian Smith, who is managing the fit-out, explains: "To suit our Workstyle 2000 specification, we needed to be sure of having things such as 15 m spans between columns, a 1 m wide circulation zone around the atrium and high-quality finishes." Smith adds: "The fear was that because it was effectively design and build, we would inherit a building much less tailored to Workstyle 2000." So, BT insisted on appointing shadow consultants that had the right to halt the project if they were not happy with it. Architect Holford Associates shadowed developer's architect Fitzroy Robinson. EC Harris shadowed project manager Bellhouse Joseph and QS Gardiner & Theobald, Halcrow Waterman shadowed structural engineer Thorburn Colquhoun, and Roberts and Partners shadowed services engineer Hulley and Kirkwood. BT also employed a clerk of works for two-and-a-half days a week.

The fear was that because it was design and build we would inherit a building less tailored to Workstyle 2000

Ian Smith, BT

Although EC Harris led BT's team, architect Holford had the greatest sway. Having previously implemented Workstyle 2000 at BT's London office, it had the job of ensuring that every Fitzroy Robinson drawing satisfied BT's brief. This meant that all drawings produced by Fitzroy Robinson had to be signed off by Holford before they could be implemented.

So, how did the architects get along under the system? Holford partner Maurice Rodger admits: "There was a certain tension at the beginning," before adding quickly that the two sides did eventually develop an understanding. "Professional" is how Fitzroy Robinson's project director Raul Curiel rather coolly describes the relationship. "Holford had no say about aesthetics. That was very hard for them, being architects!" Caught in the crossfire between developer team and client team was Alastair Pearston, project manager for main contractor Sir Robert McAlpine. He had to deal with the drag on information flow caused by the need to duplicate documents and have construction decisions approved by the powerful shadow team.

There was a certain tension at the beginning, but the two sides did develop an understanding

Maurice Rodger, Holford, on shadowing fellow architect Fitzroy Robinson

This was a problem for Fitzroy Robinson, too. If there was any dispute over a drawing, EC Harris project associate David Thomson had to dig out the original brief and chase up agreed changes. "There were about 40 agreed changes in total – about 30 from the client and 10 from the developer," he says.

Fitzroy Robinson was already under enormous pressure to produce design information, and to a higher standard than usually required. According to Curiel, McAlpine demanded drawings that were RIBA stage E or F before tendering, rather than the stage C or D drawings usually issued.

There’s no one who’d find favour with this kind of approach

Raul Curiel, Fitzroy Robinson, on losing the fit-out contract to Holford

The only solution for Curiel was to increase resources. "We had 15 people working on the job at its peak," he says. But despite putting in very long hours, and putting up with other architects criticising his designs, Curiel failed to be appointed fit-out designer. To add insult to injury, BT appointed Holford Associates. Curiel says: "There's no-one who'd find favour with this kind of approach. Of course, we'd like to design the building down to the last ashtray." G&T also found the shadowing "disconcerting". Project surveyor Derek Green says it was odd having another QS looking over his shoulder, discussing tender lists and subcontractor selection. "But we never had any head-to-heads," he adds.

One month into the seven-month fit-out, Smith and fellow BT project manager Trevor Warne are happy with the shell and core. Smith says there were few disputes. The developer team located plant on the roof, but BT insisted on it being enclosed in a specially built room. "People never go on roofs to service exposed plant in the wind and rain," says Smith. He also took issue with the worktop surfaces in the toilets – McAlpine had installed a terracotta finish that was ripped out and replaced by granite.

The make-up of the Scottish HQ

For its Glasgow headquarters, BT picked a site by the River Clyde that already had outline planning consent. In February 1997, it signed a deal with Pillar Property for a 180 000 ft2 office on the Atlantic Wharf site. Designed by Fitzroy Robinson, the £37m building looks like a square doughnut on plan. A 15 m wide ring of office space surrounds a 30 × 30 m atrium that stretches from the ground floor to the glazed rooflights above the fifth. The cladding is Schüco glazing separated by bands of anodised aluminium rainscreen cladding. A giant aerofoil of aluminium cladding juts out from the flat square wall above the main entrance. The service cores at each corner of the building are clad in aluminium, and have small bands of recessed and faceted windows. BT took special care with the cladding, and had the windows, the rainscreen and the rooflights tested – delaying the project by eight weeks. Leaky cladding on one of its buildings led BT to employ WS Atkins to engineer the facade for subcontractor English Architectural Glazing.