Specifier's choice: Drongan centre, Ayrshire
Sutherland Lyall looks at a project in Scotland that brings together an unusual mix of public services, and benefits from having a highly informed client With its design of a building for the Ayrshire village of Drongan, Wren Rutherford AustinSmith: Lord, the Scottish arm of AustinSmith: Lord, has experienced a new way of financing buildings for essential local facilities. The lead client was the Ayrshire and Arran NHS Trust, which put up the £1.2 million cost, courtesy of a successful bid to the Scottish health department under a new modernisation programme for healthcare premises. East Ayrshire Council and Strathclyde Police are tenants with 20-year leases. In this single building there is accommodation for two medical practices, a podiatrist and physiotherapist, a base for East Ayrshire community professionals, the local housing office and the local police, who have moved from the old Drongan police station across the road.
The village community of Drongan has suffered the effects of pit closures in the past two decades. Although a site had been offered for the development, it was flooded periodically. The present site, located at the top of the village and owned by the local council, made more sense, not least because with village shops, the library and the local sports hall, it formed a little community of public buildings on the main road.
The single-storey building is very easy to understand, which is just as well given the variety of activities it contains and the fact that most of it is accessible to the public. The entrance block facing south to the main road has a big central drum containing the reception desks at the front and offices at the back.
Corridors accessing rooms in the east and west wings run off on either side. The two medical practices have their surgeries on the south sides of the corridors. The police station rooms are along the front of the east wing. Interview rooms for the community professionals and plant rooms are in the same position on the west wing. The strict visual symmetry breaks down at the end of this wing, where a big semi-circular room serves as a home base for the community professionals. At the opposite end is a garage for a police car. The housing office, behind a bullet-proof screen, is off the main entrance hall, and podiatry and physiotherapy are practised in rooms behind the reception drum.
Externally, the front part of the central block has a mono-pitched roof, sloping back to just below the ridge of the transverse roof.
This long roof is in two leaves, with unequal pitches joined vertically by a linear clerestory.
Ian Wylie, project director with Wren Rutherford Austin-Smith: Lord, says: 'It was an early decision that we had to get light right into the middle of the building.' There was a particular problem of roof geometry at the semi-circular western end - how to take the roof round the half circle when there were two different roof ridges at its centre. The solution was to create a drum with clerestory lights under its eaves and to spiral the roof from its higher level on the south side round and down to the level of the front roof.
Wylie says: 'What it does is to turn the corner and create an interesting feature on the brow of the hill and add to the townscape.' He recalls the experienced joiner cursing the architects as he worked out how to build this helter-skelter. 'But in the end he told us he had enjoyed working on the job and was quite proud to have worked it out.'
George Reynolds, technical director at the practice, managed the construction phase and was particularly impressed by joinery subcontractor Fleming Buildings: 'It was the thought they put into their work before building anything that produced high-quality results.'
Shotgun marriage The NHS builds a great deal and likes to operate with its own in-house project managers, in this case Tom Steele, who is now assistant director of facilities for the Ayrshire and Arran trust. Wylie says: 'At various stages we were involved directly with the client bodies, but Steele was our single point of contact and he did a lot of the filtering.' In addition, the NHS appointed the other professionals, including a clerk of works. This was the first time the architects had worked with any of the other consultants, so there was a bit of a learning curve.
Late adopters On CAD, Wylie says: 'We tend to let the latest release go by and let others check out the glitches. On this job we started on AutoCAD 2001 and moved to MicroStation v7 purely for personnel reasons.' The two halves of the practice merged relatively recently, and whereas the Austin-Smith: Lord people were mostly MicroStation users, the Wren Rutherford team used AutoCAD. Luckily, the transition between packages was fairly seamless.
On the list The contractor, local builder William McClure & Sons, was appointed following a tender competition. The contract was a straightforward Scottish Building Contract - the 2000 contractor's design portion edition with quantities - which is very similar to the equivalent English JCT. The contractor's design responsibility was for the curtain walling at the main entrance, not a major item. The architect used NBS, although a number of the elements had to come from the NHS list of approved products and suppliers.
Cutting the cake When tenders came in there was a need to trim the specification. As far as the health authority was concerned, the roof should have been of tried-and-tested concrete tiles.
But the architect dug in.
'Because of our insistence on getting light into the inside of the building, and the fact that we wanted the roof to have a shallow pitch, we had specified Kalzip, ' says Wylie.
'We won over the client by showing them another of our buildings. Fortunately, they were up for doing something different and wanted to make a splash.'
'We wanted something different from the standard health-centre building, ' adds Steele. The worry over Kalzip concerned how vandal-proof it would be, but as no one has vandalised it, the jury is still out. The Kalzip used (installed by Kelsey Roofing Industries) is in mill-finish aluminium and is heavily insulated. The government changed Part L of the building regulations before the project had gained its building warrant, but the architect was able to cope by using the full 250mm depth between the roof joists for insulation and a vent gap.
There were economies. 'We detailed the glazing frames as timber because it is sustainable, ' says Wylie. 'The client's preference was for uPVC windows. We were keen not to use uPVC, not least because of the depth of the sections, and managed to persuade them that uPVC wasn't in keeping and that we wanted to use timber, especially for the detail of the radial corner glazing. In the end we compromised on an aluminium section with a nice mill finish - and by changing were able to save quite a bit of money.'
'I don't think the quality of the building has been diminished, ' comments Reynolds.
'We managed to find a decent window supplier [Ayrshire Shopfronts], who used circular junction posts on the radial end, so we had a faceted window wrapping around.'
'Some of the other things we had specified came out, but we were able to keep the design intact, ' adds Wylie. 'For example, we had specified timber louvres on the south and north facades of the entrance block and timber cladding on the garage, but we had to take them out. The other thing was the small community room, outside which we originally had a deck so people could get out of the building and sit. But generally the client was very supportive, so cost reductions were tweaks rather than big design changes.'
Protected walls 'What we tried to do was to use traditional materials in a modern way, and so we used harling for the walls, ' says Wylie. The architect followed the specification developed by the National Trust for Scotland. Harling is the traditional wall surface in Scotland, where walls need added protection against the weather. It is a mix of lime, sand and small stone aggregate, rendered over blockwork. The movement-control joints in blockwork are coincident with the joints in the render, both positioned in the weakest plane at approximately 6m centres.
Ground up The foundations were not particularly good, even on the brow of the hill, so the site had to be consolidated and a series of stone piles, a proprietary system, installed on a 2m grid. A raft slab was laid on top, with edge thickening around the perimeter where the walls are load-bearing. Structural steelwork was by subcontractor Carrick Metal Fabrications, including the frame for the main entrance block into which the curtain walling is fixed, and the T-section steel columns hidden behind every fourth window mullion in the semicircular west end. Internal partitions are of dense blockwork chosen for its soundreducing qualities. The roof spans are not great and the roof structure is made from simple timber members.
Professional client Working with a client that was both experienced in commissioning buildings and in the special issues of health-related buildings meant the architect had to follow the client's advice about what to specify. 'We would normally have gone for a standard beech-faced door, ' says Reynolds. 'But the trust was specific in wanting a door with a paint finish, on maintenance grounds. And the client pointed us in the direction of a previous contract for a D-type handle suitable for dexterity-impaired people. So we went to the same supplier.'
There is, of course, virtue in terms of maintenance and spares in standardising on such things as Union locks and Hewi-style handles, but on this project the final specification was for Hoppe stainless steel handles.
'The authority was concerned about the cleanliness regime and it knows, for example, the makes of carpet that encourage this, ' says Reynolds. 'In the main, the client provided us with a detailed brief, although some of it included unusual specification items. So hand basins do not have overflows or plugs, which could harbour microbes. Another curious thing was that in highly trafficked areas doors [from Crosby Sarek] have to have glazed panels that extend over almost the full height of the door, so people in wheelchairs can see what is coming.' And the main entrance doors had to open far enough to accommodate a double baby buggy.
'The client put great emphasis on the safety of the people working for it, ' adds Reynolds.
'Surgeries and interview rooms are arranged so that interviewers sit between interviewees and the door. In the interview room doors there is a piece of ironmongery that allows the door, which normally opens inwards, to be opened out into the corridor when a doctor or health visitor hits a panic button.'
'We had hoped that the waiting room would be open and friendly but part of the brief was to have a physical barrier between staff and the people using the centre, ' says Wylie. 'We were reluctant to put in bankstyle screens and had to convince the client that our choice of toughened glass screens would fulfil its requirement.'
Building management The environment of the Drongan building is controlled by a health trust-wide building management system, which could be based 16km or 80km away and is connected via telephone lines. Each building has an information-technology address, and everything from pumps to electric lights can be managed and monitored remotely.
Whether from an urge for running economies or for greenness, an M&E engineer managed to convince Steele to specify underfloor heating. Although it had a high installation cost, the payback period is short.
This was the first time the trust had used it, and the first time staff were unable to control their own environment via radiator valves.
But Steele claims there has been no adverse comment from users, adding: 'Not having radiators also gives us great use of wall space and there are great hygiene benefits.'
More of the same, please 'We have had a lot of very positive feedback from the local community and the client, ' says Wylie. 'So much so that we have a second job with them, a much bigger project.' At Drongan, the architect was appointed on the basis of earlier work. This time there was a beauty contest, but, says Wylie, the success of Drongan went a long way to convincing the client it should take on the practice again.
'We were very pleased, ' says Steele. 'It is a breath of fresh air.'
ARCHITECT Wren Rutherford AustinSmith: Lord QUANTITY SURVEYOR Johnstone Binnie McKenzie STRUCTURAL ENGINEER McLay Collier & Partners MECHANICAL & ELECTRICAL ENGINEER NIFES Consulting Group MAIN CONTRACTOR William McClure & Sons PLANNING SUPERVISOR Hodgins Smith (CDM) CLERK OF WORKS Clerk of Works Inspection Services FORM OF CONTRACT Scottish Building Contract - Contractor 's Design Portion Edition with Quantities (January 2000 edition) GROSS EXTERNAL FLOOR AREA 775m 2TOTAL COST £1.2 million START ON SITE June 2001 COMPLETION ON SITE June 2002 CAD PACKAGES USED AutoCAD 2000I, Microstation V7 SUBCONTRACTORS & SUPPLIERS Aluminium standing seam roof Kalzip; structural steelwork Carrick Metal Fabrications; aluminium windows and doors Ayrshire Shopfronts;
paint grade internal doors Crosby/Sarek; kitchen units JTC; underfloor heating system Furmo/ Rettig; screed Isocrete Givlors; plumbing and mechanical James Frew;
glazing Harry Thow;
flexible floor covering T Cumming Flooring;
surfacing work Gavin Lawrie (Surfacing);
woodwork Fleming Buildings; roof cladding Kelsey Roofing Industries; counters and screens Thomas Johnstone; electrical DH Morris; plaster and render KK Contracts;
painting and decorating Hugh LS McConnell Ayrshire Shopfronts 1600 Carrick Metal Fabrications 1601 Corus Kalzip 1602 Crosby Sarek 1603 READER ENQUIRIES Fleming Buildings 1604 Kelsey Roofing Industries 1605 Union 1606 William McClure & Sons 1607