Multidisciplinary firm to develop office campus HQ at Blythe Valley business park near Solihull.
Multidisciplinary group Ove Arup Partnership is planning a groundbreaking new Midlands headquarters.

The two-storey office will take the form of an "integrated campus" that contrasts strongly with the usual business park office. It is being designed by the group's architecture arm, Arup Associates.

The naturally ventilated building will incorporate high ceilings, a pitched roof and a series of atria between floors to aid air circulation. It is also being designed to minimise solar gain.

Ove Arup project manager John Duncan said: "The offices will be open-plan because we are trying to avoid people being compartmentalised. We are hoping to achieve a "quiet beehive" effect where people can see colleagues working in other parts of the building." Located in Blythe Valley business park, by the M42 near Solihull, the 50 000 ft2, £6m complex will house 300 staff from the company's Birmingham and Coventry offices, plus 50 drawn mainly from London.

The company signed a deal with developer Prologis Kingspark after 18 months of negotiations.

The design is for two blocks linked by a central section that will possibly house a library. There will be no air-conditioning and solar gain will be minimised by restricting glazing to North-east-facing walls.

A series of voids between the ground and first floor will encourage air circulation. Ventilation pods on the roof will increase the amount of daylight in the offices, as well as being a distinctive design feature.

Ove Arup's own M&E and structural engineers will work on the project. Its transport division is also involved, and is looking at devising a green transport policy for the site. This may include shuttle buses to and from the local train station and a car pool arrangement for commuters.

A contractor is due to be selected for the JCT80 contract in mid-May, and work will start on site in early June. The office complex is due to be completed in spring 2000. According to Duncan, Ove Arup is considering medium-sized Midlands contractors for the job.

A second phase to build an extension for 250 additional staff is still being discussed. Duncan explained: "A decision will not be made on whether to extend the building until after the completion of the first phase." Duncan said the company hopes that the centrally located offices, which will overlook a lake in part of neighbouring Blythe Valley country park, will attract more staff, as well as being convenient for clients.