Having undertaken the survey and refurbishment of many of this client's shops and offices over the years, including premises in southern Ireland, we were asked to help them find and fit out premises large enough to bring 250 of their staff under one roof for a temporary 5 year period whilst existing group structures were reorganised and existing premises refurbished and rationalised.
Location of the new premises was of prime importance as the client wished to retain their existing staff and knew that many were unlikely to commute any significant distance to work. Car parking was also a major consideration with a requirement for a minimum of 125 car parking spaces.
With their main administration centres in Carrickfergus, Jordanstown and Mallusk this narrowed our search to the greater north Belfast area, with good transport links to 25,000ft2 of modern office space and ample car parking – all at the right price, of course!
After much searching we finally narrowed down the potential sites to a disused manufacturing plant and an old mill building; as the manufacturing plant would need a lengthy planning application negotiations were advanced on the mill building instead.
Preliminary layout options were commenced, working closely with all of the departments involved in the move, including a large IT section which required detailed design for their Comms Room. Five floors of the mill building were eventually agreed upon to accommodate all of the staff, a bespoke training centre and an on-site commercial canteen.
Due to the Listed Building status of the mill many aspects of the work which would usually be straight-forward became the subject of complex negotiations with NIEA, Building Control and other statutory bodies. A prime example of this was how to get fumes and odours extracted from the kitchen to the external air without forming any extract holes in the building's walls.
Other issues overcome by clever design included layout of desks, offices, storage, etc around a tight grid of original support columns and closely-spaced windows. As no partitions were allowed to be fixed to the historic building fabric this lead to careful specification to ensure compliance with the Listed Buildings regulations.
Finally, due to the large-scale nature of the project, a number of 3D floor plans and visualisations were produced to assure the Board that this large investment would result in the quality of accommodation they required.
With raised access floors and demountable partitions the project ran smoothly on site and the offices have been a great success with the Board and staff, all of whom are delighted with the quality modern accommodation we fashioned within this historic mill building.
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