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3 St Paul's Place by Hodder + Partners

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A speculative office building in Sheffield feels very much a part of the city’s rapidly changing skyline, says Laura Mark

ARCHITECT’S VIEW • CLIENT’S VIEW • ENGINEER’S VIEW • DETAIL • PLANS • PROJECT DATA • SPECIFICATION • COSTS

Sheffield’s Heart of the City project – masterplanned by Allies and Morrison – has transformed a raft of public realm from the train station to the city centre. I’ve witnessed this masterplan develop – I was in primary school when it began 20 years ago and can remember being one of the gaggle of schoolchildren who performed at the opening of the main public space known as the Peace Gardens. Now, years later, the area with its water jets and oversized metallic balls has become one of the city’s most successful spaces and is widely regarded as a fine example of urban regeneration, with its imagery appearing on most Sheffield postcards.

It was this that kicked off the overhaul of the Steel City’s centre, starting with the gardens and Pringle Richard Sharratt’s Millennium Galleries, and later followed by the Winter Garden. Its new public realm has been widely applauded but it still hasn’t shaken off the hangover of the outer town shopping centre, Meadowhall, which opened in 1990. The plans for a retail quarter, which were stalled and later downsized, have also had a negative impact.

For a city largely lacking in high-quality office space, this new development by Hodder + Partners – the final piece in the long-running regenerative jigsaw – has been a key component in enticing investors into the city centre. Overlooked by Conran + Partners’ St Paul’s Tower, which stands as the city’s tallest building, and Allies and Morrison’s iconic ‘cheese grater’ car park, Hodder + Partners’ speculative office building hopes to address the city’s shortfall in high-quality office space. It sits on the boundary between the planned new retail quarter, regeneration on the Moor, and the Heart of the City masterplan.

Completed post recession, is this new Grade-A speculative office space as good as its earlier counterparts? And is it a fitting finale for this much-lauded urban space?

Stephen Hodder says the scheme is inspired by the buildings of Mies van der Rohe

Hodder’s original plans did see some changes due to budget constraints imposed by the recession – what was planned as a 14-storey scheme was reduced, and the facade changed from a twin skin to that which we see today. But, like the Allies and Morrison buildings completed before it, the scheme features three distinct elements – a plinth, the main office space in the middle and a set-back rooftop pavilion – all tied together by the local gritstone material used throughout the masterplan. Here, unlike its Allies and Morrison counterparts however, the local gritstone is used at ground-floor level only, creating a plinth for the scheme which also addresses the level change across the site. It will later become the spot for artwork carved by a local artist. This, as with many new schemes across Sheffield, was a requirement of the local planning permission.

Essentially this is a speculative office space and the interiors reflect that – blank canvasses awaiting the occupants’ stamp. Arup, which has taken two floors and the rooftop, is making its mark on the space – the other floors are yet to be let.

Past RIBA president and practice founder Stephen Hodder says the scheme is inspired by the buildings of Mies van der Rohe, and the externally expressed framing of the curtain-walling system and travertine-clad interior of the reception certainly nod to that. But this is Sheffield, not New York or Chicago, and the rigour of Mies van der Rohe’s work has not quite been translated. To achieve something of that quality and to communicate the same feeling requires particularly good workmanship, which has not always been the case here. The concrete columns surrounding the building are one place where the finish is inconsistent.

The building also suffers from the surrounding incomplete public space – the high-quality finishes of the Peace Gardens haven’t yet been extended down the street to where 3 St Paul’s Place sits. When these do complete and the improvements on the retail quarter side of the scheme eventually take place, it will feel much more grounded rather than a marker between new and old.

The scheme doesn’t quite have the rigour or quality of Allies and Morrison’s earlier buildings in the masterplan, completed nearly 10 years ago in 2006 and 2008 – these may be starting to age, but the quality of their details and materiality mean they are maturing with the site. As an exercise in urban context however, Hodder has succeeded: the building feels very much a part of Sheffield’s rapidly changing skyline. 

Site plan

3 St Paul's Place by Hodder + Partners

3 St Paul’s Place by Hodder + Partners

Basement plan

3 St Paul's Place by Hodder + Partners

3 St Paul’s Place by Hodder + Partners

Ground floor plan

3 St Paul's Place by Hodder + Partners

3 St Paul’s Place by Hodder + Partners

Typical floor plan

3 St Paul's Place by Hodder + Partners

3 St Paul’s Place by Hodder + Partners

Roof plan

3 St Paul's Place by Hodder + Partners

3 St Paul’s Place by Hodder + Partners

Detail 

3 St Paul's Place by Hodder + Partners

3 St Paul’s Place by Hodder + Partners

The working detail section illustrates the base termination of the Miesian box enveloping the typical office floor plates. Extended aluminium fins frame each double bay of the elevation to express the structural grid of the upper steel frame.

The double transom arrangement at floor slab edge frames an anodised aluminium spandrel panel which covers the floor slab edge with the remainder of the ceiling depth cloaked by a white ppc aluminium pressing fixed to the back of the lower mullion. Roller blinds are positioned behind in a recess obscured by the plasterboard margin and help to mitigate solar gain.

The greater depth of the in-situ reinforced concrete frame to the cantilevered first floor is enveloped by natural anodised banding and the soffit is underdrawn with bluclad board which is finished with a high build-up paint to create a seamless surface to the soffit over the entrance colonnade.

In-situ reinforced concrete columns transfer the loads back down to the pile capping beam below ground. The columns are tapered to front to help minimise the depth of transfer structure required and negotiate the oversailing condition to the front entrance. Their depth and shot-blasted finish offers a solidity which helps to tie the building into its context.

Angela Pownall, project architect, Hodder + Partners

3 St Paul's Place by Hodder + Partners

3 St Paul’s Place by Hodder + Partners

Source: Peter Cook

Architect’s view

St Paul’s Place, Sheffield represents the completion of the commercial components of the original Heart of the City Masterplan for the site formerly occupied in part by the 1970’s extension to the Grade 1 listed Town Hall.

Office 3 represents the conclusion of three office buildings identified within the Allies and Morrison masterplan, which was granted outline planning permission in October 2003 with the desire to re-establish the eastern side of Norfolk Street. The site for the building was always perceived as being pivotal in connecting St. Paul’s Place with the south and west of the city, and the New Retail quarter.

The recently completed building, whilst conceived as a response to its context, is also viewed as a termination for the office developments along Norfolk Street. Its single volume is consistent with the wider urban setting, whilst the muscular concrete columns that support the upper floors, and the varying setbacks, engage with the surrounding streets and manage the level changes around the site.

Office 3 was designed using BCO guidelines as a reference point. It comprises 10 office floors developed on a standard 1.5m planning grid, serviced from an offset core containing 3 passenger lifts, one of which is a fire fighting lift, fire escape stairs and male, female and disabled WC’s. The upper level office floors sit over a two storey height entrance foyer which orientates back to the Peace Gardens and the Town Hall. There is dedicated basement parking and servicing below.

The elements of the tripartite façade comprise a gritstone podium, which transcends the level changes and responds to the materiality of St. Paul’s Place, a highly articulated anodised curtain walling system to the main office levels bringing light and shade to the primary elevations, and a more delicate ‘crown’ at roof level. The central section of the north façade is clad with bronze anodised aluminium rainscreen cloaking the WC core. 

Stephen Hodder, chairman, Hodder + Partners

3 St Paul's Place by Hodder + Partners

3 St Paul’s Place by Hodder + Partners

Source: Peter Cook

Client’s view

Office 3 at St Paul’s Place is the last building as part of the 700,000ft² mixed-use St Paul’s Place development in the heart of Sheffield City Centre.

The scheme was conceived to create a new central business district in Sheffield City Centre and the mix of uses across the seven structures helped to create the critical mass and sense of place with its large first phase.

Whilst working on the masterplan we selected a few architects, including Hodder and Partners who were identified from the outset to deliver Office 3. The current building, which has just completed, is the third iteration on the same site and reflects a structure and specification fit for its time.

Hodder have created a crisp addition to St Paul’s Place and a building of distinction in Sheffield which combined with the suite of office buildings at St Paul’s Place has delivered the best Grade A office space in the City for a generation.

Hodder’s design addresses a very tight site that has been extended on upper levels overhanging the footways below so as to create a workable floorplate capable of multiple sub-division, but with really excellent daylight depth, good views out across the city and improved efficiency metrics which were critical for viability.

The attention to detailing is a given with Hodders and this shows especially in the buildings common parts which are well laid out, comfortable and a delight.

The building contrasts with the architecture of the previous phases at St Paul’s place but picks up on key materials common to all, compliments and progresses the design experience of the City’s architecture. 

David James Topham, chief executive, CTP

3 St Paul's Place by Hodder + Partners

3 St Paul’s Place by Hodder + Partners

Source: Peter Cook

Engineer’s view

A steel frame structure was the obvious solution for the office levels above first floor. Through the use of long span beams the internal columns could be eliminated to provide a clear, open-plan office space around the central core. 

The use of cellular beams allowed for services integration within the structural zone in order to keep the overall floor depth and storey height to a minimum. The beams are designed to act compositely with the concrete floors slabs to deliver an efficient and economic frame. Stability is provided by the concrete shear walls around the central lift and stair core. 

A key feature of the building is the exposed concrete columns at ground level. These support the perimeter steel columns above and are inclined outwards in order to reduce the requirement for transfer structure at first floor. As a consequence the decision was made to adopt an in-situ reinforced concrete frame up to first floor level as it was considered that this would best resolve the lateral forces due to the inclined columns and the transfer requirement at first floor. 

A contiguous piled retaining wall is provided to two sides of the site to form the basement. This diminishes in height to suit the site levels. The ground conditions consist of made ground over weathered mudstone over mudstone bedrock. The site had been extensively worked for coal and many former bell pits required grouting. A deep raft foundation was provided to distribute the loads across the footprint of the building. 

Jon Smith, design director, RoC Consulting

3 St Paul's Place by Hodder + Partners

3 St Paul’s Place by Hodder + Partners

Source: Peter Cook

Project data

Start on site July 2014
Completion March 2016
Gross internal floor area 9,804m²
Form of contract JCT Design and Build contract 2011
Construction cost  £14,900,000
Construction cost per m² £1,689/m²
Architect Hodder + Partners
Client CTP and U+I
Structural engineer Roc Consulting
M&E consultant  Ernest Griffiths
Quantity surveyor Spring & Co
Highway engineer Grontmij   
Fire engineer Arup Fire       
Interior designer Space Invader
Project manager Prosurv Consult
CDM coordinator Shepherd Gilmour CDM
Approved building inspector Align Building Control
Main contractor Bowmer & Kirkland
CAD software used Microstation
Annual CO2 emissions 16.77 kg/m²

3 St Paul's Place by Hodder + Partners

3 St Paul’s Place by Hodder + Partners

Source: Peter Cook

Specification

Curtain walling Schüco FW60+ capped, mullion drained curtain walling system with extruded anodised aluminium caps and extended fins, clear double glazed units with solar control high performance coating and anodized aluminium insulated spandrels in grey to the structural grid and bronze to the hit-and-miss blanking panels

Rainscreen cladding Drained and back ventilated rainscreen cladding cassettes in bronze anodized aluminium with hit-and-miss slot windows to the toilet lobbies and lift core

Structural steel frame with composite floors Supported on an in-situ reinforced concrete frame to the lower floors with shot-blasted tapered columns to the building perimeter

Stone plinth Stanton Moor sandstone from Dale View Quarry, Matlock

Hot melt roofing IKO PermaTEC

Natural stone paving Yorkstone paving by Johnsons Wellfield Quarries

Travertine wall lining to lift core in ground floor reception Verona travertine by Lancashire Brick and Tile – 20mm thick panels tied back to the concrete core

Plasterboard drylining British Gypsum

Sanitaryware Duravit

3 St Paul's Place by Hodder + Partners

3 St Paul’s Place by Hodder + Partners

Source: Peter Cook

Costs

 COST PER M2 (£)PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL
SUBSTRUCTURE £98 6%
   
SUPERSTUCTURE   
Frame £286 17%
Roof £24 1%
Staircases £18 1%
External walls £342 20%
Windows £4 0.20%
Internal walls and partitions £31 2%
Internal doors £24 1%
   
INTERNAL FINISHES   
Wall finishes £19 1%
Floor finishes £40 2%
Ceiling finishes £34 2%
   
FITTINGS AND FURNISHINGS   
Furniture £23 1%
   
SERVICES   
Sanitary appliance £9 0.50%
Disposal installations £11 0.60%
Water installations £34 2%
Space heating and air treatment £191 11%
Electrical services £132 8%
Lift installations £34 2%
Protective installations £48 3%
   
EXTERNAL WORKS £62 4%
   
PRELIMINARIES AND INSURANCE £225 14.70%
   
TOTAL  £1,689 100%

 

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