29 May 2020
LABS House is the new flagship site for client, LabTech. The 80,000 sq. ft scheme - with Od Interiors and Moxon Architects as project partners - saw the redevelopment of the existing Bupa House, located on Bloomsbury Way, into a nine-floor co-working space with a combination of private and public member areas. The client wanted to create a unique non-corporate co-working environment providing a variety of high-quality work and leisure spaces visually connected by a distinctive style.
Spatial flexibility was a key requirement of the brief. Construction commenced without any tenancy agreements secured. Therefore, the ability to efficiently reconfigure workspaces (both economically and physically) to suit future tenant occupancy expectations was crucial. The key design principle aimed at limiting the potential disruption associated with spatial reconfiguration was to futureproof the services installation. Both high and low-level services were strategically positioned to accommodate both cellular and open-plan spatial arrangements where possible (fit-out flexibility). Movable and stackable walls were also installed to the meeting room suites to further suit user demands. Additional facilities include a member’s gym, cocktail bar and public restaurant.
In more detail:
The project came up against numerous budgetary constraints where the team was required to provide inventive and economical design solutions to overcome complex coordination issues typical on a refurbishment project of this scale.
The team had to utilise as much of the existing plant as possible whilst adding additional services. Challenges also arose when coordinating the new contemporary interventions with the existing building fabric.
The design team actively sought out cost-saving opportunities both pre and post-construction whilst a coordinated BIM model for the new restaurant kitchen helped negate abortive work typically associated with fast-tracked projects of this nature. The inclusion of large and publicly accessible work and leisure facilities at ground floor level provided a welcome inclusive activation of a previously private building.
The principal physical challenge was the requirement to safely implement an increase in the building’s capacity. A new fire engineering strategy was developed that enabled a potential occupancy increase from circa 1,000 to 1,700. Despite the limitations presented by existing core restraints, the design team identified various additional ways in which the building could be adapted to safely raise occupancy levels. These included the widening of escape route doors, strategic placing of fire shutters and application of additional fire compartments.
About the Conservation & Regeneration Award:
The conservation or rehabilitation of old or historic buildings and sites is often an important part of neighbourhood revitalisation, providing physical and psychological focus for the community and creating jobs and investment opportunities. Construction work that involves the conservation and regeneration of historic buildings requires great care and specialist skills and techniques.