Engitect Issue 7

Fit Out Projects - Cumberland Place - Is it a Thickening? - CDM and All That - Frazzi Blocks - Partnership News - And Finally...


Issue Seven - Winter 2002


Welcome to the 7th edition of Engitect. Through your feedback we are pleased to hear that readers enjoy our newsletter. In this issue we describe our input to 'fit out' projects in the City of London and also the retail sector.

We also include details of work undertaken recently in the residential sector, as well as our regular features such as the caption competition, the Party Wall etc. Act and the 19th Century construction cartoons.

Fit Out Projects


Fit out work has become an important part of the construction budget, but it was not always so.

The first speculative office buildings in the early 19th century were office chambers, let as rooms or suites or floors, and required little more than redecoration by an incoming or first Tenant, with perhaps a timber screen to separate the public and private areas.

These buildings were, of course, of load-bearing masonry construction with timber floors.

The introduction of iron framing in the second half of the 19th century and of structural steel and reinforced concrete at the beginning of the 20th century did not change the tendency to minimal work by incoming or new tenants, which continued through until the 1970s.

In the post war years speculative offices were generally of reinforced concrete construction, with storey heights reduced to the minimum permissible, to enable the maximum number of floors to be fitted into a height restricted by planning considerations.

Floors were screeded and finished with vinyl/asbestos tiles, and ceilings were plastered or plasterboard with a shallow void.

Conduits or ducts to floor boxes were buried in the screed and ducted skirtings were provided, wired with electrical power.

Heating was generally low-pressure hot water with radiators or concealed gilled tubes, and air-conditioning was openable windows. These minimal finishes left little scope for tenants fit our work, which was usually limited to the construction of partitions to individual offices, with local alterations to the light fittings and telephone wiring threaded through the conduits and ducts provided.



This all changed in the early 1970s when air conditioning started to be a tenant's

requirement if he was to pay the higher rents, and space for data cabling was needed. Hence increased storey heights to make space for services above suspended ceilings and raised floors to provide for all types of wiring.

In the mid 1980s Stuart Lipton and his colleagues were developing Broadgate and imported the concept of "shell and core" from the other side of the Atlantic. In those buildings the developer provided the envelope and the completed cores, leaving the tenant to fit out his space in an area with naked walls and floor structures. The developer's work included the basic services for the tenant to extend to serve his space.

Funding institutions however understandably needed completed buildings to provide security and thus required the tenant to fit out his space to at least a standard commensurate with the location and the rent. This standard, known as "category A," was specified and the tenant was provided with funds to pay for that work. Most tenants required enhanced standards, as least in some areas, and that enhancement was what is known as "category B" work, with the cost over and above category A funded by the tenant.

The tenant's fit out work therefore comprises the services and the finishes for a substantial proportion of the building and cost a substantial proportion of the total expenditure.

It is clearly desirable if the tenant can be developing the design of his works at the same time as the developer's team designs the base building, which can then incorporate the tenant's requirements. If not, the tenant may be limited by the "shell and core" works or even be faced with completed category A works to adapt and alter and extend.

Most sell and core developments are therefore pre-let, as have been the recent fit out projects on which we have been fortunate to be appointed, for Linklaters, Simmons & Simmons, Lovells, Morgan Grenfell, ABN Amro and others.

In all these projects, the tenant's team has been appointed early enough to be involved with the developer's team in the base building and the provisions for the tenant's space. Thus we have been able to assist by considering structural aspects of the tenant's architects and engineers to protect the tenant's interest and arrange for suitable details to be incorporated in the base build design.

This generally includes holes and load capacity for services, particularly UPS, load capacity for particular uses, such as catering, filing and other heavy items, solid finishes and provision for structural alterations to enable staircases, auditoria, fitness centres, moveable partitions and other requirements to be constructed as part of the fit out.

However shell and core construction and subsequent fit out work are not limited to offices. Our long-standing connection with the John Lewis Partnership has meant that we have been able to help them with the fitting out of department stores in new shopping centres, such as those at Bluewater, West Quay in Southampton, and Solihull.

For these developments we have been involved in advising the John Lewis Property, Building and Services team on their requirements for the developer's shell, for that is all he provides, leaving the Partnership to install the cores, mechanical and electrical plant and all of the interior fit out. There is thus no category A work as such since the Partnership complete the retail interior fitting out to their own high standards.

Fit out has become an important part of our work. It is similar to but not identical to work on an existing building for it generally involves the creation of a building incorporating as many as possible for the occupier's eventual requirements, even though the occupier is not sure precisely what he will want and bearing in mind that none of us is equipped with a crystal ball. The fit out includes fitting the final considered client's requirements into the straight jacket that the base building has now become. A challenge we enjoy.


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Cumberland Place, Regents's Park

Readers may be surprised to learn that demolition of the magnificent Nash terraces, which line the boundaries of Regent's Park, was considered in 1947. Such action would certainly have denied Octagon the opportunity to develop no's 2.3.4 Cumberland Place into high quality residential units, which are now being offered for a combined sales value in excess of £17m.

The former Marylebone Park reverted to the Crown in 1806 and Nash was commissioned by the Prince Regent to produce a scheme for developing the whole area as a dramatic combination of urban terraces and picturesque landscape dotted with villas. It was to be a the end of a new axis of development extending northwards from the Prince Regent's residence in Pall Mall.

The spectacular frontages with their columns, statues and pediments were merely stucco. The houses behind were of stock brickwork with timber floors like any other London terrace from this period.

Apart from their poor structural condition at the end of the War, rather than restore the buildings for the well off, there was a move to redevelop the area to serve a more 'social' purpose. The Gorell Report commissioned by Clement Atlee's government in 1947 recommended restoration, prompted not in small part by the recently formed Georgian Group. At the end of the day it would seem that only Atlee's casting vote saved them. Cumberland Place was converted into 10 flats.

Octagon have re-created three houses which have been described in recent press articles as a 'Regency's 'palace' of the new age'. Every stage of the renovation has had to be agreed with the Crown Estate which retains ownership of most of the buildings in Regent's Park.

Jonathan Wyatt, managing director of Octagon Central London, has described the work as less like a refurbishment, more like a total rebuild. Some 64,000 bricks - enough to build three detached houses from new, were need to replace parts of the brickwork, which was crumbling away.

Hurst Peirce & Malcolm have been pleased to assist Octagon, and their architects Moxley Architects in this fascinating and demanding projects.

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Is it a Thickening or are there Two Walls

Between the wars and indeed before the first world war when a building, perhaps a terrace house, was demolished to make way for a larger building, it was necessary to increase the thickness of the party walls to comply with the thickness set out in the London Building Act for the increased height and/or length of the new building. This could be achieved either by taking down and rebuilding the party wall - a right given by the Act, but to say the least inconvenient to the occupier of the adjoining building and consequently costly - or to thicken the party wall. Thickening was commonly the course adopted and I have long speculated how this extra skin of brickwork was bonded to the old wall. A solution to this puzzle appears in a book published over a century ago that I have recently acquired. This illustration appears in Dangerous Structures and how to deal with them - a handbook for practical men by George H Blagrove of which the second edition was published in 1906, showing block bonding on elevation and within the lat month I have seen the square recesses in a wall beside a site in Berkeley Square where the thickening has been removed
(see photo).

This prompts caution when you come across a situation when there appear to be two independent walls on a boundary. It is all too tempting to assume they each belong to their building and can be taken down without affecting the other.This I suggest would be foolhardy without further investigation.

There may indeed be two walls, one of which is the original party wall, the other having been built later beside it, but it may be one thickened wall and local exploratory work will be lucky if it comes across the edge of a section of block bonding to confirm this. The answer can only be determined beyond reasonable doubt by carrying out a comprehensive survey of both sides of the wall (or walls), incorporating the location of the interface as revealed by exploratory work at all levels. It would also be prudent to compare the thicknesses with those required by the Act in force at the date of construction.


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CDM And All That

Regular readers will recall the picture taken by Lawrance Hurst showing this somewhat unusual warning sign on a City of London site. We were pleased to receive a number of entries including:

'Beware falling ex-ministers and spin doctors' by a M Heneker of solicitors Hyde Mahon Bridges.

'No you fool - I said refer to paragraph 2 of the Code of Practice not 2 Para' by Paul Lilley, recently retired service manager John Lewis Reading (formerly Heelas).

By unanimous decision of the judges some gift vouchers are on their way to Paul

The picture on the right was taken recently in the City of London and shows a window cleaner on a ledge, 10 storeys above ground level. What might he be thinking at this precise moment? Answers on a postcard please to the Editor.

We will award £30 of gift vouchers to the winning entry.

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Frazzi Blocks

Regular readers may recall an article from issue 2 of Engitect about the refurbishment of the General Offices at Waterloo Station and the use of 'Frazzi' hollow clay blocks in the floors. Charles Shapcott, engineer to English Heritage had obviously added this reference to his database for when he came across similar blocks in a Grade 2 listed church in Galley Common near Nuneaton he sent us an e-mail to record his findings. The church, which dates from 1906, was apparently erected for the miners working in the area.

The external walls, which range up to 10m in height, apparently comprise 'Frazzie' blocks laid on edge and rendered. The blocks are similar dimensions to those we found at Waterloo Station, measuring 590 x 245 x 75mm, making the maximum slenderness ratio about 130! Great care is now understandably being taken to prop the walls to ensure they have adequate lateral stability. Architects for this project are Stainburn Taylor with Martyn Peters as Engineer.

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And Finally...

A further entry in our series from the 19th Century building practices and hazards to health is one related to the co-ordination of building works with the building services and pipework. We hope things have changed!



Most of you will already know that John Hussey retired as senior partner at the end of March. John had been with HP&M since 1956, and is now enjoying a well-earned retirement. Andrew Dutton became senior partner upon John's retirement and Philip Hurst joined in partnership with Andrew and John Redmond to maintain the family tradition. Philip is the third generation of the Hurst family to have an active involvement with the practice, which was started by his grandfather in 1910.

The partners and staff extend good wished to Hicky Matloob who is retiring after 29 years with Hurst Peirce & Malcolm.

We extend a warm welcome to Gareth Randle and Pieter Cilliers who join us as graduate engineers and Sue Miller, as an administrative assistant.