As part of International Women’s Day 2021, we are celebrating the achievements of women in our practice who have risen to the challenges that arise when creating beautiful architecture.
Architect Catriona Toner has been a part of Darling Associates since 2014, working across a number of residential and workplace developments. From January 2017 Catriona was part of the 3 Glass Wharf team. Here she tells us about the challenges they faced bringing this new build workplace to life.
“The site is located on Bristol’s Floating Harbour, and it was exciting to work on a project that would see the creation of a brand-new state of the art workplace that would be seen by everyone who arrives into Bristol by rail. There was great a responsibility felt by everyone on the team to create a beautiful workplace that so many people will see every day.
Every project goes through challenging circumstances at every work stage, but there were two particularly unique challenges to overcome with 3 Glass Wharf, one affecting the top of the building and the other affecting the lower levels.
3 Glass Wharf sits adjacent to the Victorian-era Feeder canal, on a site that used to be occupied by a Bristol glass production factory. Being in such a prominent waterfront location is obviously a hugely desirable attribute for an office, but this also requires sufficient flood protection measures which need to be integrated.
Whilst the flood risk assessment stated that there was actually a low risk of flooding in the area, a precautionary approach was adopted. The flood level estimated for the Floating Harbour was 9.4 metres above datum level and our main ground floor level was set at 10.4 metres above datum level, one metre above the flood level, to avoid requiring any flood protection measures. However, the north side of the building is lower and steps below that 9.4 metre flood level.
As a result of this, we had to allow for channels in the paving so that appropriate and substantial flood protection barriers could be put in place. The protection barriers were designed to be erected at thresholds around the building which were lower than the 9.4 metre flood level, and at the basement car park access ramp as well, where the barriers could be fitted into suitable channels.
The barriers themselves also required a home when not in use, so we had to integrate a storage solution within the basement without compromising on car parking, bicycle parking or changing facilities.
The design team and contractor worked together to ensure that the mitigation measures, including the basement waterproofing system and pumping and discharging the basement area drainage close to or above the estimated flood level, were satisfied.
In my experience it is always very important for the entire design team to work together to mitigate any potential risks.
Protecting Local Heritage
Another challenge lay in the building heights for our scheme. Sitting opposite the Grade I listed Temple Meads station, we naturally had to be conscious of the potential impact 3 Glass Wharf could have on protected views around the train station.
The BCO Guidelines for Best Practice stated that in order to achieve a good high-quality environment we needed to maintain floor to ceiling heights of 2.7 metres. To achieve this whilst keeping the total height of the building within an appropriate parameter, our solution was to reduce the build-up of the raised access floors as much as we could.
It took all of the design team working together to minimise build-ups and maximise the space we had. We worked closely with the structural engineer and services engineers to try and keep the structure and the services zones as efficient and minimal as possible, so that we could achieve the highest possible floor to ceiling heights.
The minor compromises we made ensured that we were being appropriately sensitive to the important heritage of Temple Meads, so it was a fair balance in the end. The last thing we would want to do is negatively impact the views of the train station.
And this was just the interior of the building. Externally we had to make sure that the plant equipment on the roof was as compact as possible for the same reason. We spent a lot of time coordinating and working with the services engineers to ensure that the specified plant equipment was the smallest, lowest possible height available. We also designed a louvred screen for the roof to help conceal the plant equipment from view. The result is great as the screen blends in with the skyline and helps to minimise the overall impact.
Every time we made any minor adjustments to the heights we would keep a mindful eye that we were within the planning heights and check our design against the verified views to make sure that we weren’t impacting on the views to and from the station.
I’m proud to have played my part in 3 Glass Wharf and I think that everyone involved has created a high-quality workplace which finishes off the Temple Quay waterfront development. All the good work has paid off clearly, as the scheme was not only nominated for a BCO award, but we recently won the Best Commercial Development Award at the Bristol Property Awards. It’s always nice to get recognition for a job well done!”