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FaulknerBrowns completes porcelain tile-clad office in County Durham

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The Newcastle-based practice specified large-format porcelain panels for an electrical company’s new headquarters

Sited on the outskirts of Durham, Janet Nash House is the new European IT headquarters for global electrical business City Electrical Factors. The building has a precast concrete structural system with integrated cooling pipework, with a 15m span that enables column-free office spaces and energy efficient temperature control. Its façade incorporates large-format porcelain cladding tiles.

The building, which consolidates the firm’s IT departments in one location, is split into two distinct working environments for different departments. The northern block is for the data preparation and software development teams and includes cellular spaces, specialist workplaces and breakout areas offering a high level of control over access, lighting, privacy and acoustics.

In contrast, the L-shaped southern space is an interactive workplace offering an open and transient environment for the graphics and marketing team. This wraps around a 52m-long, two-storey, glazed central atrium, which offers further collaborative workspace and breakout spaces for all employees, including a café, tea points and a games area.

6. janet nash house cef faulknerbrowns ©hufton+crow

6. janet nash house cef faulknerbrowns ©hufton+crow

Architect’s view 

The materials selected for the project are a physical expression of the layering of components found within the client’s core product – the electrical cable. Large-format porcelain panels are expressed both internally and externally throughout the northern block as a reference to the traditional use of ceramics as an electrical insulation material. Here, the density and depth of the façade treatment embodies the static and controlled nature of the workplace environment.

In contrast, the southern ‘wrap’ takes inspiration from the foil shield of the coaxial cable, with brushed AluNatur panels framed in an anodised aluminium curtain walling system. Layered in front of the translucent glazing, stainless steel woven mesh—reminiscent of the braided shield—is inset into the module to provide solar shading. The light, rhythmic and reflective qualities of this façade treatment respond to the more open and fluid workplace environment accommodated within.

Throughout the atrium, materials such as copper, steel and translucent plastics are elegantly detailed to incorporate CEF products within the many bespoke joinery items, creating a functioning catalogue of their goods.

2. janet nash house cef faulknerbrowns ©david cadzow

2. janet nash house cef faulknerbrowns ©david cadzow

Active design and biophilic design principles were adopted and became fundamental to the design of the workplace to help ensure employee wellbeing. The prominent feature staircase is located at the entrance, and this immediate visual connection promotes active use of the staircase and provides a visual anchor to the shared spaces within the atrium. Amenities such as a fully equipped gym, healthy eating café, outdoor terraces and cycle to work facilities also promote activity.

Expansive use of glazing and the central positioning of the glazed atrium ensures light permeates through the building, promoting natural circadian rhythms. This is also supported by a colour-temperature controlled LED lighting strategy. Views out into the Durham countryside are promoted along the southern and eastern elevations, especially in the social gathering spaces. The inclusion of a dispersed internal planting strategy throughout reinforces this link to nature.

Janet nash house cef faulknerbrowns drawings page 05

Janet nash house cef faulknerbrowns drawings page 05

Project data

Start on site October 2016
Completion May 2018
Gross internal floor area 3,645m²
Gross (internal + external) floor area Total site 1.5ha inc. 6,000m² enhanced ecological zone
Form of contract or procurement route Single-stage Design & Build
Construction cost  £11 million 
Construction cost per m2 £3,000  
Architect FaulknerBrowns Architects
Client City Electrical Factors 
Structural engineer Curtins Consulting
M&E consultant Desco
QS Gleeds
Project manager Gleeds
CDM coordinator FaulknerBrowns Architects
Approved building inspector Bluekeep Building Control
Main contractor Sir Robert McAlpine
CAD software used Revit

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