An expensive new building?
With staff spread across four different sites and with some teams having three or four locations, we needed a new central office in order to provide our members with a better, more integrated service and work in a more efficient and productive way. Communication is now much faster with less time wasted on travel, improving the service we provide and reducing costs and pollution.
The overall costs for building Heelis were met by the developers who have given the Trust a favourable, long term lease.
Running costs have been reduced by £550,000 a year and the National Trust expects to save around £400,000 per annum in London weighting payments in the future and more than £250,000 per annum in administrative costs thanks to the improved working practices allowed by the new building.
This is a key issue in the National Trust's philosophy and Heelis has had to meet high quality benchmarks for sustainable design. We also wanted an open plan space to ensure good communication between departments.
The use of day-lighting and natural ventilation demonstrates how a building can be architecturally exciting, whilst being efficient, sustainable and economical. The building has already won awards in the construction industry, for it's sustainability and innovative design including a prestigious AJ100 award from The Architects Journal.
Heelis is expected to generate just 15kg of carbon dioxide per square metre per year compared to 169kg for a typical air conditioned office.
The shape of Heelis draws inspiration from the history of the Churchward site and a desire to bring staff together under one roof. Brunel's railway works once covered the majority of the site with deep plan, single volume spaces, designed to maximise day-lighting in much the same way as the Atrium at Heelis.
© National Trust / Adam Moore
The building cuts dramatically across the site giving a north / south orientation to the roof pitches. The north facing pitches allow the maximum possible amount of daylight to enter the building without causing it to overheat. The south facing pitches are covered in solar panels which provide around 40 per cent of the buildings electricity needs.
The blue Staffordshire engineering bricks used as the principal external material are a contemporary interpretation of the surrounding brick structures and are laid in a lime mortar to reduce cement use and facilitate recycling. The cast aluminium cladding visible on parts of the elevation provide a subtle tribute to the foundry which once occupied the site.
Mounted on the south facing pitches of the roof at Heelis are 1,554 photovoltaic (solar) panels. The electricity generated is used in the building and any excess can be sold back to the grid. In reception at Heelis, a display indicates the energy generated and the CO2 emissions saved.
Most of the cost of the photovoltaic panels was met thanks to a grant from the DTI.
© National Trust
A lighting control system adjusts the level of artificial light in response to external conditions and movement sensors ensure that lights are turned off in unoccupied areas. Roller blinds internally and brick fins externally prevent any excess glare. The result is a workspace with comfortable, even and largely natural lighting throughout.
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Heating and ventilation
Like many churches and traditional buildings in hot climates, the structure of Heelis includes areas of 'thermal mass'. Concrete ceilings absorb heat from the office space during the working day creating a more comfortable environment. In summer secure external vents automatically open at night, allowing the whole structure to cool.
Heelis is naturally ventilated. Some windows are controlled automatically and others can be opened manually. Roof vents are controlled by special sensors and open into the distinctive 'snouts' on top of the building. These 'snouts' act as umbrellas against the rain and as chimneys to ensure the circulation of fresh air.
During the winter much of the heat is provided by incoming fresh air, warmed by the extracted air which has been heated by people and all the electronic equipment associated with a modern office.
All of the timber in Heelis has been harvested from sustainable woodland, much of it from National Trust properties. The carpet has been specially developed for the building using wool from Herdwick sheep grazed on National Trust farmland.
© NTPL / Joe Cornish
The undyed Herdwick yarn has been mixed with a small amount of nylon and carbon fibre to give a commercial quality carpet tile in keeping with our environmentally responsible ethos.
Artist Eleanor Pritchard produced the tapestries which act as acoustic baffles and space dividers in the atrium. Working on a 1930s Dobby loom in her Greenwich studio, Eleanor has designed and woven panels, representing the breadth of the Trust's estates - coastlines, woodland, gardens, buildings and farmland.
© National Trust
The land around the building uses indigenous species which are typical of post-industrial landscapes. Blocks of silver birch contrast nicely with the colours of the building and provide shelter to the exposed area to the south. Hornbeam and oak enclose the northern boundary of the property and lavender and alliums enclose the Colonnade.
'The aim of the Trust's founders was to allow the nation's industrial workforce access to beauty…..there is something very appropriate about the Trust's decision to establish its new headquarters in a place previously occupied by just the sort of workers whose lives it set out to enhance'John Pawson