Basic and repetitive are the typical hallmarks of prison design, but on this two-block police HQ project, Martin Middleton not only created a visually impressive building that delivered the ‘wow’ the client wanted but also reduced the build costs.
At the heart of Martin’s £400,000 budget reduction efforts was a materials management plan. Having decided to build the 42-cell block off site in precast reinforced concrete to reduce waste as well as give greater certainty on costs and time on the remediated site, he then went all-in on waste reduction. He switched the original plan of digging out and building a new car park from scratch to building it up from the existing surface, crushing and reusing all underground obstructions. As a result, he avoided the hefty cost of trucking 25,000 tonnes of waste off site and bringing in new aggregate.
A further significant cost saving came from jettisoning the architect’s use of natural ventilation. When Martin assessed the client’s appetite for such an expensive feature, it transpired that all the users really wanted were windows in the administration block that could be opened.
As for the facade’s attractive mix of flowing lines and angular forms, Martin brought the construction innovation that overcame the sizeable technical challenge. Shrouded in turn by columns and canopies, the facade was originally developed as a precast concrete structure. Pointing out that concrete was simply too heavy and spawned too many structural restrictions to deliver the design, Martin suggested using that kitchen worktop mainstay Corian: it could be formed into complex shapes, was hard-wearing but easy to repair if vandalised, and could be installed as thin rainscreen.