Keynsham Civic Centre and One-Stop-Shop
A landmark workplace forming a catalyst for town centre regeneration
Keynsham Civic Centre and One-Stop-Shop is a transformational development that has reignited a sense of civic pride, for Bath and North East Somerset Council (B&NES) who work in the office, and the whole Keynsham community. Part of the wider Keynsham regeneration masterplan, with council offices, library, restaurants, retail, play spaces, an improved public realm, a market square and a one-stop-shop, the scheme provides the community with indispensable amenities in the heart of the town centre.
Winning the British Council for Offices’ Best of the Best award, the flexible workplace has been key to enabling the council’s transition to more collaborative working practices and driving a skilled workforce to the area.
B&NES had a clear sustainability goal, that the office needed to be achieve low energy use in operation and be an example for other private development to follow in the area. We focused on sustainability performance from the outset and this objective drove an innovative design and delivery process, with energy use being considered at every step.
Collaborating with the council and community to develop an inclusive, accessible anchor scheme
Keynsham was chosen to host the new hub, as the town had suffered from a loss of employment after the closure of the Cadbury factory in 2011. B&NES wanted not only a new workplace, but a space that people were drawn to, that would spark regeneration and bring new life into the town centre.
It was important to us that the public felt part of the project from the beginning. We conducted thorough community engagement with over 20 stakeholders, as well as working closely with B&NES Disabled Workers Group, to guarantee that the design was accessible and inclusive to all.
It was also critical that the council staff felt that their needs were being met. By conducting pre-occupancy studies, we understood the Council’s current working habits and their ambitions to have a workspace which would drive evolving working practices. This ensured that we created an office which encouraged flexible, collaborative working, whilst also being an enjoyable place that people wanted to spend time in.
Our challenge was to accommodate 9500 m² space within a constrained, sloping town centre site whilst providing an improved public realm. Rather than filling the site with a large low-rise building, we sliced through the site with two new pedestrian streets. Through these new streets and further public spaces surrounding the civic centre, the building reaches out to the community. It has instilled a sense of ownership, with the lines between the development and its position in the town centre blurred.
Spaces that encourage evolving working habits
The building has allowed the council to rationalise its office buildings from 12 down to 4, with the majority of staff now based in Keynsham.
Four wings are arranged around a central atrium at the heart of the space.
Prioritising people’s health and wellbeing and fostering connections between different departments were key to the council’s brief. By considering the space and voids in the atrium, somebody must cross this central space to get anywhere. This encourages people to move around more, increasing creative collisions, impromptu meetings and spontaneous interactions.
There is a 3:2 desk sharing ratio and the departmental mix was unknown at the outset of the project. This has ensured that there are a variety of types of spaces that can cater for different team sizes. Some of the areas are enclosed, offering space for seclusion and privacy, while others encourage openness and collaboration by facing outwards into the atrium.
It was very important that people had opportunities to work away from their desks and that they could work in any environment which suits them. The breakout space and touchdown ‘decks’ have proved popular as informal meeting spaces.
There are stunning long-distance views across the town and local countryside, which gives a connection to the outdoors, improving productivity and efficiency.
Sustainability and Soft Landings approach
To address B&NES’ requirement for low operational energy-use performance we adopted a Soft Landings approach at all stages. Specific responsibilities were outlined from the beginning and the project team remained involved after completion.
We conducted several studies to explore the reasons why existing buildings failed to perform as intended, using these lessons to inform our approach and design. We then undertook a study to better understand the council staffs’ working habits and typical energy use patterns. From these, we could calculate an ‘operational energy-use budget’ which was agreed upon upfront.
We also created an ‘energy risk register’ which listed every element of the building that could affect future energy use. Both were incorporated into a contractually binding ‘energy performance contract’. Holding the project team accountable to this contract resulted in fewer changes to the original design, as the energy-use budget needed to remain the same.
The process included reviewing the building’s actual energy performance on a month-by-month basis, which was critical to identify problems and make adjustments while the project team were still engaged.
design and innovation
Innovation in every aspect
A passive first design approach was used as this is an effective and cost-efficient way of achieving a low-carbon building in the long term. We adopted the passive first approach early at the concept stage, which fundamentally influenced building massing and internal arrangement.
1. Structure - An innovative hybrid structure of a cross-laminated timber (CLT) frame, steel and concrete, was designed which offered quick site erection and good airtightness. This solution provided significant programme savings, and drastically reduced the amount of embodied carbon produced. The building achieved many of the sustainable benefits of a timber building with the structural efficiency of a steel frame.
2. Daylight - Larger north-facing windows maximise daylight without increasing heat. Light shelves on the south facade bounce light deeper into the building improving daylight uniformity. Blinds can be used to control daylight without cutting out ventilation.
3. Orientation - Deliberately narrow floor plans, 15 m wide, ensure the greatest cross-ventilation.
4. Form - Pitched roofs create space for warm air to rise before being ventilated through high-level windows. The roofs are pitched south to enable photovoltaics to be incorporated into the design. Opening windows are set back from the facade which shields them from traffic noise.
5. Ventilation and cooling - Alongside the pitched roofs, voids have also been used to drive passive stack ventilation. These are next to the fully glazed areas of the facade, letting daylight penetrate deeper into the building. We avoided air conditioning throughout, instead using natural ventilation, controlled heat gains and exposed concrete thermal mass.
6. Acoustics - There is some level of noise pollution due to being in the heart of the vibrant town centre. To reduce this, we incorporated a bespoke window solution with a deep acoustic louver into the window system with an inward opening ventilation door behind.
Exceptional sustainable design
Through holistic scrutiny of every element of the design, delivery, and post-occupancy use of the building, Keynsham Civic Centre and One-Stop-Shop is an exceptional example of sustainable design.
in energy costs compared to previous sites
fossil energy use compared to CIBSE best practice
in 2nd year of operation compared to 1st due to adjustments made in the aftercare period
towards the RIBA 2030
energy consumption target achieved in 2017
in office space, from 12 buildings to 4, reducing running costs for B&NES
achieved on a noisy town centre site with ‘passive first’ approach.
A testament to a council committed to its community
Keynsham Civic Centre and One-Stop-Shop sets a high bar for future development within the county and has created an impressive precedent by a local authority. The development greatly benefits the local community while providing for the needs of council staff.
The scheme has added valuable retail and amenity space, stimulating the revival of the high street and embodies the council’s commitment to the community.
By housing council meeting spaces in the one-stop-shop, the council feels more accessible to the community and there is an improved sense of ownership and togetherness.
We have included a youth club and the flexible multi-purpose space is available to the community for meetings, fitness, dance and activity classes and hosting performances and films on retractable seating.
The space below the council offices is lettable and has attracted major retail providers.
New market square
A new market square contributes to almost 50% of the site area being provided as public realm, with the outdoor space able to host regular markets and events.
Restoring significant historical features
There was a lot of engagement with Keynsham Heritage Society, as they had artefacts they wanted to display, so the community could understand more about local history. A significant Roman mosaic has been carefully restored and incorporated into the floor.
Over half the site is accessible 24-hours to the public, there is a citizens advice office and a police community desk which makes use of the rear entrance which is always open.
Keynsham, Bath, BS31 1FS
Bath and North East Somerset Council and Willmott Dixon
DEC ‘B’ Rating
EPC ‘A’ Rating
68,000 ft 2 - One-Stop-Shop
12,690 ft 2 - Civic Centre
Two new pedestrian streets
BCO National Awards 2015
Winner - Best of the Best
BCO National Awards 2015
Winner - Corporate Workplace
RIBA South West Awards 2015
RIBA South West Sustainability 2015
UK Hydrographic Office
Winner of the British Council for Office’s Best of the Best Workplace, this transformational workplace encourages new ways of collaborative working.
Our design utilises pioneering research in innovative ways, creating an exceedingly positive and responsive workplace that will be one of the healthiest workplace environments in the world.
These two BREEAM Excellent, Grade A Offices form Phase 1 of the Commercial District Masterplan, and are part of the wider regeneration of Birkenhead.