New Birmingham City Council Offices

Project: New Birmingham City Council Offices

Micro-perforated metal tiles from Armstrong Ceilings have played a pivotal role in the aesthetics and acoustics of Birmingham City Council’s new workplace, 10 Woodcock Street.


Specified by Associated Architects, some 3,200m² of Armstrong’s metal 1200x300mm tiles featuring 71% light reflectance and a fleece backing for additional acoustic insulation were installed by specialist sub-contractor CG Reynolds for the principal contractor Thomas Vale Construction.


CG Reynolds had a team of 15 to 20 ceiling fixers working over four months to install the metal white “swing down” planks, which can be folded down to allow access to service above, throughout the 60,960m² of open plan offices, meeting rooms and break out areas.


In the open plan office area, containing more than 2,200 work stations, they were used as rafts with plasterboard perimeters and in larger occupancy meeting rooms as suspended ceilings under a natural ventilation system of ceiling-mounted fan coil units.


The £38million project, built on a hectare of vacant land next to Aston University, has achieved an “Excellent” BREEAM rating through its use of natural ventilation, roof-mounted photovoltaic panels, grey water recycling and a brown roof. The project has already achieved Construction Excellence demonstration project status.


Associated Architects’ brief from the UK’s largest local authority was for a modern, flexible office environment to deliver high levels of efficiency and support transformational change. The council’s ambition was to deliver this at an optimum carbon footprint as an exemplar for other large occupiers and to contribute to the on-going regeneration of the Aston Triangle.


10 Woodcock Street was built on the success of the council’s workplaces at 1 Lancaster Circus, Lifford House and New Aston House, recognising the need to achieve value for money while providing an enhanced working environment for more than 3,000 employees and improved customer service for the citizens of Birmingham.


The building is organised around a full-length, two-storey internal street that acts as the primary circulation route into the building. Into this route plug service cores and lift lobbies along with a central catering facility and break out space at ground floor level which acts as a central social hub for the building.


Open-plan office floor plates are provided in three four-storey wings of accommodation focused around four atria with interconnecting office floor space bridges between the wings and feature accommodation stairs within the atria behind the 10 Woodcock Street frontage.


Externally, the steel-framed building is designed to provide a solid, restrained frontage with civic quality materials of stone and copper along 10 Woodcock Street and simpler brick and curtain-walling treatments to the rear and side elevations.


Penetration of solar gain into the building is carefully controlled using external solar shading and deep reveals in the external walls. The thermal mass of the precast concrete floored and panelled structure is used to moderate temperatures without mechanical cooling and high levels of daylight are admitted into the atria to reduce demand on artificial lighting.


Simon Alexander, associate with Associated Architects who are regular specifiers of Armstrong Ceilings, said: “The ceiling solution was an incredibly important component of the design of the internal office environment – visually, acoustically and for ease of access to services. We also wanted a fairly reflective white ceiling to complement the light and airy feel of the office environment.

“We liked the clean lines of the Armstrong metal system and the 1200x300 proportions matched the horizontality of the external appearance of the building. The planks also met our acoustic absorption criteria and we liked the ease of access into the ceiling void they provided by hinging down and folding to one side. They were set within a plasterboard margin to ensure we were never forced to cut any of them.”


At the official handover ceremony in October 2011, Cllr Randal Brew, Cabinet Member for Finance, said the new workplace at 10 Woodcock Street “sets a new standard for local government”.