CABI (Centre for Agriculture & Bioscience International) is a not-for-profit international organisation based in Wallingford. They improve people’s lives worldwide by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment. They were previously based in an old school building requiring a high level of maintenance. Architects Scott Brownrigg were asked to design a replacement low carbon headquarters building, and have risen to this challenge with an imaginative concept.
The finished building provides a two-storey low carbon office integrating a bio-diverse landscape. The building is situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the living ‘green’ roof and surrounding planting will attract insects and birds and enhance biodiversity. Inside, the building has capacity for 180 staff, with amenities including a café restaurant, meeting rooms and a conference room/auditorium, providing a collaborative flexible working environment.
The design is highly energy efficient. Natural ventilation was a key design factor and was achieved with a perforated facade which permits cool air into the building throughout day and night. A traffic light system alerts users when the building gets too hot or if there is not enough fresh air.
Our Specification Manager started by brainstorming ideas for blinds with Scott Brownrigg. The design intent was for the building to look like an ‘arc’ appearing and disappearing into the ground, which meant that the windows to the upper floor all had arched tops and some windows at each end were basically triangular in shape.
As the building design also includes horizontal brise soleil, a transom was introduced to square off most of the upper floor windows, to mount the roller blinds. This leaves the small shaped areas of glazing to rely on the brise soleil, in order to reduce cost.
Starting with fabrics, we initially looked at options for screen fabric that would work for the majority of the blinds as well as match fabric for any remaining shaped blinds required. The design brief was for the building to be as sustainable as possible, so we then looked at using Verosol SilverScreen. However specialist glazing containing silver had already been settled on, which mitigated the advantages of a metallised blind fabric. Motorisation was put forward and adopted as this was seen to be a key element in improving sustainability. More expensive blind systems were looked at but eventually rejected on cost grounds.
The final choice was our Draper Flexshade Motorised Blind system. This robust blind system from the USA carries a 25 year ‘lifetime’ warranty and is manufactured under licence in the UK by Waverley. Eventually blinds to all shaped windows were value engineered out of the scheme which in turn allowed for the use of our BetaScreen 90 screen fabric with 3% openness to all windows, further reducing the cost.
Waverley worked with Barnwood Construction in supplying and installing all the blinds to the completed building. The vision from CABI supported by the rest of the team has demonstrated how new buildings can meet the demands of a modern workspace whilst still supporting a sustainable environment. Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic during construction, the project has been successfully completed to the satisfaction of all involved. Waverley are proud to have been involved in such a distinctive project.
Winner: Building Project of the Year under £10 million, Constructing Excellence SECBE Awards 2021
What they say
“On behalf of my EMT colleagues and all CABI staff worldwide let me thank all of our professional advisers, partners and suppliers for their work in helping us achieve this exciting milestone in CABI’s history.
We now have an office that we can be truly proud of, which is fitting for an international organisation, visited by guests and staff from around the world. It is truly in keeping with our mission and values to protect the environment and biodiversity, whilst also being an impressive local landmark” – CEO, CABI
“The Constructing Excellence SECBE Awards recognise the very best of the construction and built environment industry from across London and the South East. Throughout the rigorous judging process, the expert judges look for people and organisations driving change in our industry.
We worked alongside Project Managers and Lead Consultant Ridge and Partners LLP to complete the low energy design that offers a two-storey office space and successfully integrates an experimental bio-diverse landscape with a new collaborative flexible working environment.
At the heart of this project is CABI’s commitment to protecting the environment. The design is highly energy efficient with detailed strategies for materials, orientation and structures. The design includes a careful selection of materials for the building fabric, which reduce the energy consumption to achieve low carbon use in operation.
Huge congratulations to all involved on this project!” – Scott Brownrigg