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Grimshaw's FT building made into 'dot com' powerhouse

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Property developer Chelsfield has completed the conversion of Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners' award-winning Financial Times Printworks building to an Internet 'carrier hotel'. The refurbishment of the 1988 Docklands development is part of its latest venture to convert defunct industrial buildings into homes for the super computers which power the Web.

The conversion was part of a new £80 million investment by the developer in high-technology property company, Global Switch International, which manages buildings for companies such as fibre-optic cable carriers and Internet service providers.

The move aims to capitalise on the spiralling demand for a new generation of buildings needed to house the computers which power the Internet. The booming market is predicted to be worth billions of pounds in the next few years and has also seen architect Sheppard Robson link up with construction company Churchfield to form a joint venture designing similar facilities (aj 16.3.00). But while the trend has raised fears that design quality will be sacrificed in exchange for functionality and speed of construction, Chelsfield managing director, Nigel Hugill, has pledged to keep design standards high.

'How these buildings look will be a major preoccupation and it's something that has been exercising our thoughts a lot recently,' Hugill said.

The main criteria for the design of these buildings are that they should be highly secure and weatherproof. Plans are already underway to convert existing buildings in Paris and Amsterdam, and Global Switch International has taken options on a number of other sites for new buildings.

Meanwhile, sources at Sheppard Robson said the practice is on the verge of signing deals, in partnership with Churchfield, to design a series of edge-of-town Internet buildings.

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