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Greater Manchester Divisional HQ

Manchester, UK

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project overview

Estate rationalisation to create a flexible working environment

The divisional headquarters for the North Manchester Police Division brings together neighbourhood, tactical and strategic, custodial and administrative policing functions all under one roof.

Part of the review and rationalisation of the Greater Manchester Police’s (GMP) estate, the building creates a fully supportive working environment where staff can thrive. The headquarters is flexible and responsive to current and future divisional requirements, recognising shift patterns and ongoing strategic departmental changes.

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Project aims

Bringing contrasting services together under one roof

GMP identified a need to replace and update no longer fit for purpose custody buildings and provide first class facilities to support their operations. The building requirements presented a challenge, it needed to act as a single unit both operationally and aesthetically, whilst housing two disparate functions of custody and office space.

The GMP also wanted the headquarters to be an iconic building which showed them as an outward facing organisation, there to serve the community, whilst still prioritising the safety of the people inside.

Security was an extremely important element of the design. With no “standoff” distance specified to keep away threats, the design needed to be ‘robust, yet inviting’ with a fenced secure area around the outside. The custody elements had to be solid due to their nature, yet sit cohesively with other services in the headquarters.

The office provides 50,000 ft2 of net area of grade A flexible open plan space which can be transformed depending on the required use, including meeting rooms, quiet rooms and a suite of offices for the command department.

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Design concept

Encouraging cross-department relationship building

It was important we designed the building to have a relationship with the force headquarters opposite. Both buildings use curtain walling framing, glass and white precast concrete although differ in scale - with the divisional headquarters designed around a flowing aesthetic of solid overlapping concrete frames.

The frames are in-filled with full height glazing, allowing natural light through the building and into the office space. The glass across the whole of ground floor of the public facing areas also retains the “open” aspect of the building.

To create a positive relationship between different department staff, we designed a tiering arrangement to bring together the single storey custody units and the four storey office into a coherent whole.

The office block forms an L-shape, wrapping around and masking the custody units. The two functions are linked through a double height internal “street”, which also solved many of the circulation and security division challenges.

Based on a grid layout, the coherent office space is capable of flexible working, hot desking and is adjustable to variable shift patterns. Floor to ceiling partitions allow easy transformations of meeting spaces to form larger space for briefings, meetings and seminars.

Custody areas contain a mix of secure and private rooms. U-channel glass was utilised with opaque and security film inside, maintaining a level of openness yet still masking the space from public view. The same system was used for the end staircases, gym, custody office areas and plant rooms. Differing levels of opacity were used according to the visual requirements of these spaces.

Design and innovation

Expandable and collapsible building to meet strategic needs

One of the drivers behind our layout design was its inherent ability to react to ongoing departmental changes, creating a flexible and expandable building. This flexibility proved invaluable in making swift changes right up to the planning submission. Allowing us to adapt floor layouts and even floor plates sizes to match internal strategic changes by GMP.

Each furniture and storage solutions were considered to allow maximum flexibility, ease of use and cater for all applications within GMP’s environment, while still retaining the same appearance throughout the interior of the building.

We provided a bespoke increased cable management system to the desking structure, catering for the specialist IT requirements of a working police building.

Given the building’s use, we introduced a number of additional resilience measures. This included its electrical supply coming directly from the local primary substation, on site hot and cold water storage, secure large plant areas and the use of suntubes to address lighting requirements whilst maximising safety.

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Key information

Project summary




Greater Manchester Police






BREEAM Excellent
EPC B Rating


22,300 m2


50,000 ft2 office space
Custody suite
30 cells
12 high security cells


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