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Three coins in a fountain

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The government is going with the flow, commissioning Foster and Partners to design a water feature at the Treasury

Charlie Dimmock has performed an interesting balancing act over recent years, simultaneously making 'water features' both a laughing stock and a commonplace in the British garden of the 1990s.

Every garden centre now has a range of pumps, pool liners and cherubic GRP Mannekin Pis lookalikes, to enhance the gravel-strewn patios of the great suburban semi.

And just to show that the government is of the people, the Treasury Building at 1 Horse Guards Road has just had one installed. Maintaining a certain aloofness from the plebs, though, this one has been designed by Foster and Partners, in conjunction with landscape architect Gustafson Porter - rather than knocked up by Tommy Walsh and a couple of Irish navvies. It is part of an overall design that has just helped the building to win the respected British Council of Offices' London Region and National Refurbished Workplace Award.

The overall refurbishment scheme was the first PFI project to use a contract based on the Treasury's Standard Terms and Conditions, which seems to have played a part in reducing bid costs and added to the 'value for money' criteria, as reported by the Treasury's own website in October.

One month can be a long time in politics and as we go to press the Daily Telegraph reports that Gus O'Donnell, the Treasury's permanent secretary, admitted recently to a House of Commons select committee that he wasn't sure why the Treasury's departmental admin budget had increased by one-third. Subsequently, it has been revealed that most of the increase will go on the annual service and lease payments 'for its swanky refurbished building, complete with water feature'.

Christopher Fildes wrote that the original fixtures, fittings and external works 'spoke of conscientious cheeseparing' as an example of fiscal prudence to other departments. The Treasury's new bravado reflects its confidence actively to intervene in the affairs of all departments. In this respect, Gordon Brown walks on water, you could say.

The two new water features are set within the central courtyard to provide a constant depth flow of water, with each pond separated by a walkway. Each opposing pond is fed by a 9m horizontal sheet of water that rises at the courtyard perimeter and runs across 6m of shallow gradient slate to the collection pond at the central bridge.

In order for the courtyard to be used as a function space, the brief required that the area be able to be run dry and to safely accommodate foot traffic. To this end, the outlet - or feed slot - had to be reduced to 20mm to prevent heels from getting caught and the protruding lip of the adjusting plate be kept to a minimum to avoid trip hazard.

'This, ' says ACO Technology's Roger Brigham, 'directly affects the feed characteristics, making the mechanism used to control the outlet profile even more critical.'

To moderate the flow of water - which is pumped from a feed pipe in the external service void at approximately 450mm below the chamber - a series of baffles has been introduced within the two rectangular feed chambers. These are set on adjustable feet to level the chambers before bedding in. Each chamber, which is 300mm wide, 150mm deep and the full 9m long, has inlets at 1.3m centres that discharge onto the inner face of the inverted T-baffle, thus reducing the inlet turbulence and allowing the water to gently rise over the external lip in a smooth flow pattern.

The result is a constant 4mm flow depth along the entire length of each outlet, which produces the look of a permanently wetted surface - just enough to give the appearance of a pool, while also enhancing the quality of the slate lining.

For more information call 01462 816666

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