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View: Grid List
Client
Cullinan Studio
Location
London Borough of Islington
Size
785sqm
Performance
BREEAM: Excellent
Contact
Johnny Winter
Team
Max Fordham LLP, Jerram Falkus Construction
Awards
CIBSE Building Performance Awards Finalist (2015) RICS London Award - Design Through Innovation (2014) AJ Retrofit Awards - Offices Under £5m (2013)
Press
Building Knowledge (2017) Retrofit for Purpose (2014) Architects’ Journal (2012)

Our new canal-side offices at the Foundry demonstrate beautifully that retrofit can be as elegant and energy efficient as anything new.

Foundry

In 2012 we moved into our new studios after radically transforming a dilapidated 19th century warehouse on the Regent’s Canal in Islington.

Our brief was for a mixed-use development: half the building was to be refurbished to become the practice’s new low energy offices over two floors, with rentable office space above; and the other half demolished and replaced by 12 two-bedroom apartments. 

We have created a beautiful and efficient workplace for ourselves – proving that retrofit can be as inspiring as new-build – but we are also using our first-hand experience of running a newly completed building as a research exercise. What we learn from investigating how users interact with their building after handover will be put to good use in our future projects.

"The completed building’s new structural skeleton supporting the creaky original fabric defines a space that is both pleasantly bespoke and inherently of its place. The interior is finished with simple and direct detailing, creating a calm and unpretentious setting for a design studio that takes pride in developing an architecture derived from the art of construction and the understanding of people and place."

Retrofit for Purpose: Low energy renewal for non-domestic buildings, Penoyre&Prasad, RIBA Publishing

Context

The three-storey Victorian warehouse building that has become the Foundry is located on a narrow south-facing stretch of towpath along the Regent’s Canal. It falls within a conservation area and both the south brick wall facing the canal and the original timber roof trusses are locally listed.

Our design responds to the building’s canal-side setting and the listed structural elements that had to be retained. An added complication was that the south brick wall was leaning by 250mm from bottom to top towards the canal and significant structural works were needed to arrest movement.

The leaning listed south brick wall of the Foundry

Creativity

The first – and decisive – intervention for the retrofit was a response to the constraints of the existing building: the leaning and locally listed south wall that needed stabilising, and its double-height windows. 

The structural solution that we devised was to insert a steel frame that interacts with the original Victorian steel frame and masonry. This stabilises the existing building fabric, including the south wall, and also supports the listed timber trusses. 

Steel shear walls articulate the two circulation zones that frame the studio spaces. A horizontal truss, with intermediate supports, spans between the shear walls, supporting the failing south wall and creating a void against it. This allowed the double-height windows to remain largely as they were. 

The street entrance on the ground floor opens into a mezzanine level office that looks down into a communal kitchen and more office space which is level with the canal. The double-height windows – enlarged as much as possible within the constraints of conservation guidance – provide light, ventilation and views onto the canal. 

The first floor is self contained and open plan, leaving the assembly of existing roof trusses undisturbed. The first floor has a particularly generous amount of daylight and cross ventilation. This was achieved by cutting the existing north wall off at first floor sill level, and hanging a continuous band of glazing from the new steel frame.

Since moving into our new studios we have been gradually turning the small strip of dirt next to adjacent out building on the Regents Canal into a garden for the community to enjoy. We reused the worktops from our previous office to make benches.

Climate

Tackling energy efficiency in existing buildings is critical. We took a ‘fabric first’ approach at the Foundry and it leads the way for low energy retrofit. Although new foundations were laid to support the south wall, the fabric was retained and almost 80 per cent of the existing building was re-used.

The building has been refurbished to BREEAM ‘excellent’ standard. This represents a significant upgrade to the building’s environmental performance before refurbishment.

The walls, roof and floors are highly insulated: for the north and south walls a thick layer of blown recycled newspaper was used. After maximising insulation, and providing as much natural light and ventilation as possible, we employed low energy technologies to provide space heating and energy generation.

An air source heat pump provides domestic hot water and under-floor heating. Photovoltaic panels on the south slopes of the roof generate electricity, and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery services the toilets. These systems are controlled through a Building Management System, and energy performance and space temperatures are monitored through an internet-based dashboard. 

Environmental elements of the refurbishment project