Met Office builds with climate change in mind

A striking design and an emphasis on sustainable construction allied to energy saving features make the head office of The Met Office a centre of attraction to mark the weather forecasting organisation's 150th year

A key factor in the design of The Met Office’s new headquarters building in Exeter is its desire as an environmental organisation to be seen as modern and efficient business that exhibits a concern for the environment.

The new head office, involving a relocation from Bracknell, not only provides a high quality environment for its staff but also demonstrates the organisation’s core values including: openness, internal/external environment, staff interaction, energy efficiency and comfort.

Architect for the project, Broadway Malyan says that the building has been designed to reflect these values and enhance the working environment for the staff.
The building design asserts a strong identity within its context at Exeter Business Park. An internal street, combined with the radiating steel frame and external canopy creates the distinct identity of the new Met Office building.

Broadway Malyan completed the detail design very quickly to allow construction to commence on site only three months from financial close. Fast-track construction methods enabled building construction to be completed and handed over to the client in two years, on time and on budget.

The total construction value, including fit-out and plant, is £80 million.
The successful relocation project continues with the facilities management provision for the next 15 years as part of the total project value of £150 million.

Energy efficiency

Environment features include energy efficiency and sustainability. Materials from sustainable sources have been used wherever possible.

A Termodeck system provides the basis for the environmental control to the majority of the floorspace. This utilises the thermal mass of the concrete floor slabs to moderate the temperature of the air which is circulated via a displacement ventilation system through the raised floor. This is combined with a highly insulated and airtight building envelope to give a high degree of energy efficiency.

Long-term energy savings are predicted with the incorporation of CHP plant as part of the mechanical and electrical design. The plant uses absorption cooling to convert heat energy to cooling.

Windows and elements of curtain walling are triple glazed to ensure the high degree of thermal efficiency demanded by the holistic approach in the design to the control of the internal environment and energy usage.

Efficient ventilation systems have been designed by ZBP to reduce the impact of the building on the local environment.

There is also a Sustainable Urban Drainage system from the large areas of car parking which ensures a controlled discharge rate so that the effect of the building on the local watercourses is minimised.

A BREEAM assessment was undertaken prior to construction and an “excellent” rating was achieved.

Centre of attraction

The innovative design features of the recently completed project is already attraction attention. CIRIA, for example, has organised a site visit with the aim of exploring sustainable construction in practice and the manner in which the architect and joint venture team responded to the project requirements specified by The Met Office and how these were addressed in practice with the design and delivery of the site’s buildings.

Contractor Costain, as part of the Stratus consortium and the design/construction joint venture, has received Government praise for the Met Office project .

Construction work was completed at the new Met Office headquarters and centre in Devon at the end of 2003.The building was formally handed over by the Stratus consortium to the Defence Minister Ivor Caplin, on behalf of The Met Office.
Mr Caplin, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence, said: “I am very pleased to accept this splendid new Met Office building. The successful completion of this large, complex construction and relocation project, both within budget and under a strict timetable of just over two years, reflects greatly on the Met Office and the Stratus consortium. It shows what the right partnerships between the public and private sectors can achieve.

The pioneering relocation reflects the Government’s aim to move parts of the civil service out of London and the South East and has involved one of the most complex IT moves ever undertaken in Europe. The move has been so successful that Met Office is now offering advice and expertise to others contemplating major relocation moves.

The Met Office opted to move from an outdated 1960s headquarters building in Bracknell, Berkshire in November 2000 and selected Exeter from a range of potential locations. Work began on the greenfield site on the edge of the city towards the end of 2001.

The contract, worth a total £150 million, was awarded to the Stratus consortium. The construction phase, managed by Costain-Skanska, cost £80 million and the remainder will fund the maintenance and operation of the building by service providers GSL over the next 15 years.

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