designed by fletcher priest architects, the ‘brunel building’ is a recently completed structure in central london. the 17-storey building contains a range of light-filled workspaces overlooking the grand union canal and paddington station — the terminus to isambard kingdom brunel’s great western railway. the brief called for a development with ‘innovative workspace’, which would attract occupiers and highlight the significance and convenience of the area. the response references the site’s industrial character as well as its engineering landmarks.

fletcher priest brunel building
image by dirk lindner (main image by jack hobhouse)

 

 

working with arup, fletcher priest’s proposal for a steel diagrid exoskeleton refers to brunel’s now lost great western railway viaducts. where two underground subway tunnels traverse one corner of the site, the building is pulled back to reduce loading. meanwhile, a line of piles between the two tunnels helps to distribute foundation loads. pushing the superstructure to the outside of the 32,912 sqm building delivers column-free internal floor space — spanning 12-16m to the dispersed central cores and 66m from end to end. this maximizes flexibility for the building’s occupiers.

fletcher priest brunel building
image by dirk lindner

 

 

the external structure shades windows, allowing larger areas of glazing and deep daylight penetration. beams are tapered as they approach the façade, permitting the use of taller perimeter glazing and further increasing daylight. this impression of light and space is further enhanced by the high floor-to-ceiling dimensions. fletcher priest and arup worked with building services engineer cundall to integrate the floor structure and services into as tight a zone as possible, some 100mm less than normal for workplace buildings, to further increase ceiling heights.

fletcher priest brunel building
image by jack hobhouse

 

 

‘building services have been left on display throughout, to reveal how the building has been constructed,’ says fletcher priest partner, keith priest. ‘this strategy is most emphatically revealed through the exposed external structure, while vibrant orange, inspired by waterside safety equipment, was chosen to highlight mechanical and structural elements and canal-side public lifts.’

fletcher priest brunel building
image by jack hobhouse

 

 

this aesthetic means that materials such as concrete, steel, and sawn oak have been left exposed internally, and service ducts and pipes are visible. extra emphasis has been put on the quality of construction — a particular challenge in areas such as the core, where huge areas of concrete required a consistent finish, and had to remain protected during construction. extensive full-scale physical mock-ups and integrated digital modelling became key design tools.

fletcher priest-designed 'brunel building' in london reveals its construction methods
image by jack hobhouse

 

 

environment and social sustainability were central to the ambitions of both design team and client. the external diagrid structure provides 20% shading to the façades, helping to reduce energy demand. an aquifer thermal energy store (ATES), with two 40-storey deep boreholes, provides low-carbon heating and cooling. grey water from showers is recycled to flush the building’s bathrooms.

fletcher priest-designed 'brunel building' in london reveals its construction methods
image by jack hobhouse

 

 

exposed undersides of the structural precast concrete floor panels, made in a robotic plant, help to deliver comfortable interior thermal gradients and more volume per person. leaving the ceilings exposed also saved more than 540 tonnes of embodied carbon. more than 90% of construction waste was recycled and ground blast-furnace slag (a waste product from iron and steel production) was used in the concrete.

fletcher priest-designed 'brunel building' in london reveals its construction methods
image by jack hobhouse

 

 

although its main entrance is directly on the canal, the building is set back to make the sidewalk publicly accessible for the first time in more than 200 years. meanwhile, motorized hangar-sized glazed sliding doors can be rolled back to provide an extension to the new tree-lined towpath walkway. passers-by can visit the canal-side restaurant café and bar and view public art in the triple-height reception concourse.

fletcher priest-designed 'brunel building' in london reveals its construction methods
image by dirk lindner

 

 

the structure is topped with two roof terraces that offer views across london. soft landscaping, planters with wildflowers, trees and nesting boxes all contribute toward re-establishing the local ecology. read more about the project in an online book produced by fletcher priest architects.

fletcher priest-designed 'brunel building' in london reveals its construction methods
image by jack hobhouse

fletcher priest-designed 'brunel building' in london reveals its construction methods
image by tim fallon

fletcher priest-designed 'brunel building' in london reveals its construction methods
image by dirk lindner

fletcher priest-designed 'brunel building' in london reveals its construction methods
image by raluca ciorbaru

fletcher priest-designed 'brunel building' in london reveals its construction methods
image by dirk lindner

 

 

project info:

 

name: brunel building
address: 2 canalside walk, paddington basin, london, W2 1DG
start on site: january 2016 (demolition)
completion: 2019
gross internal floor area: 31,248 sqm
environmental ratings: BREEAM excellent, EPC B
scope: design and build

 

architect: fletcher priest architects
client: derwent london
structural engineer: arup
M&E consultant: cundall
quantity surveyor: arcadis
project manager: gardiner & theobald
CDM coordinator: jackson coles / HCD
approved building inspector: MLM
main contractor: laing o’rourke
façade specialist: arup
landscape: plincke / barton willmore
transport: arup