Why This City Council House Was Named One of the Best Office Spaces in Britain

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Chair of the Month

Hints: Eco-friendliness, hyper-efficiency, and location, location, location.

The front of the new Derby City Council House.

When the Derby City Council decided to refurbish their offices, they didn’t stop at making them bigger and better: they also made them greener.

Since BAM Construction finished the £35 million refurbishments of Derby’s City Council House two and a half years ago, City Council members and Derby residents alike have had the benefit of an open plan, naturally lit new space that can accommodate almost four times as many people as the old facility.

Even more impressively, the building takes advantage of its location on the banks of the River Derwent to achieve the highest possible environmental sustainability rating. Features such as adiabatic cooling, rainwater harvesting, solar panels and hydroelectric power harnessed from the river itself all earn the Council House an “A+” Energy Performance Certificate and a BREEAM classification of “Excellent”.

Scroll for more photos and our Q+A with the designers.

The building was acknowledged as one of the best office spaces in Britain in 2014 by the British Council for Offices.

What is the address of the project? 

Derby Council House, Corporation Street, Derby, DE1 2FS.

Who was the interior architect/designer?

Mike Lampard and Richard Wagenhauser of Corstorphine + Wright.

When was the project completed?

December 2012

What is the total square footage?

185,291 square feet

What is the square footage per person?

131 square feet per person (based upon desk spaces)

How many total employees are there and what’s the daily population?

The building previously accommodated 500 staff and now comfortably fits 2,000 as a result of a third floor being carved out of the roof space. Another 1,000 people are due to move in later in the year.

Originally the design brief was for seven desks for every 10 people but following an evaluation of how the accommodation was being used this was adjusted to five desks for every 10 staff. Due to their flexible working environment, just 1,440 desks were provided and work stations are shared between the employees.

A light-filled atrium surrounds the actual chamber room, on the left.

Director of Strategic Services and Transformation Gordon Stirling said, “Because most members of the office staff do not have a desk that they can call their own, they simply log on to a computer that is not being used by someone else in their department when they come into work. At the end of the day, they are required to clear the desk they have used and store any material in their personal locker.”

Stirling added, “This system is working perfectly well because a good number of staff do not work in the office on days when they are conducting visits and some staff choose to work from home on particular days.”

A meeting room.

What is the location’s proximity to public transportation and other amenities?

It is located in Derby City Centre and within walking distance of the railway station; Corporation Street also has a bus interchange with excellent transportation links. There are also car parks nearby that support the building, which was designed to have a low parking ratio to help improve its sustainable credentials.

Being within the city center it is close to the retail center and all major retailers are within easy reach.

What were the construction/hard costs per square foot?

£130 per square foot

Which furniture brands/dealers were used?


An open plan seating area just outside of the chamber.

What percentage of the space is unassigned?

There is a mix of publicly accessible and private areas within the building. The design responds to the brief to ensure that the accommodation is used effectively.

How is the company’s brand reflected in the space?

As part of our design strategy we worked with the Council to personalize the building for them, this involved working with their brand standards to identify the different floor levels within the building to help [with] wayfinding.

In addition the Council wanted distinctive artwork that reflected the cultural, professional and historic city of Derby. They achieved this with a strategy for artworks and graphics around the building, designed by Corstorphine + Wright along with Bonwicke.

What is the most unique feature about the new space?

The Council chamber is the most unique feature; it’s centrally located so that it can be seen from most parts of the building. The original chamber was hidden away and difficult to find. As the chamber is a key part of the way in which the Council work we wanted it to be visible, it also means that it has become a meeting space and far more flexible than the previous space.

The chamber is clad in timber which conceals an acoustic wall to help reduce the sound in the atrium space and creates a dynamic route for people crossing the building.

A view of the centrally located Council chamber.

What was the hardest aspect of change for people in moving from the former space?

As part of the planning process for this project, the project team invested a lot of time in meeting other organization that had underwent similar levels of cross-directorate, large scale change. We wanted to use the lessons learnt by those who had experienced various levels of success.

The key message that came out was about designing a sensitive and informative communications strategy that could envelop a clear journey of change and how this affected both the business and the individual. As part of the Derby Workstyle project the team engaged with relevant stakeholders from the beginning of the journey onward. The project team painted a realistic picture of what the future would look like and they managed expectations carefully.

As part of the project, we invested in a dedicated communications officer based within the project team responsible for delivering Derby Workstyle. The communication strategy was something that really helped keep the project on track and aware of any cultural challenges on the horizon.

Most of the resistance to change comes from the fear of the unknown. Emails, briefings and newsletters can only go so far; a lot of people need to be communicated with through touch and feel. At Derby, we encouraged teams to trial, adapt, and feedback on new ways of working; trialling remote working, operating on a clear desk policy, hot desking, etc. Once we had appointed the furniture supplier we also set up model offices so employees could see real examples of their future working environments.

Please talk about any other notable aspects of the project that make it unique.

Sustainability was an important factor for this building, at the outset the desire was to create a BREEAM “Excellent Space”. Its location on the River Derwent also gave us the opportunity to consider other ways to improve the efficiency of the building in unique ways.

As part of a major construction phase a water powered generator was constructed on the river side served via a Mill Race. The river directly adjacent the Council House has a series of weirs which is ideal for Hydro Power and has proven to be very successful. Cooling for the building utilizes the almost constant temperature of the river to work with the buildings systems for comfort cooling.

This had to be carefully designed to ensure that the water temperature levels were not affected and this was discussed at length with the Environment Agency. The result of the Hydro Power system and the River Water Cooling systems have raised the BREEAM level to almost outstanding levels and give the building an A+ EPC rating.

All images courtesy of Corstorphine + Wright.

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  1. What is the name of this building ?

    – Please provide indisputable proof of the name as the name indicated on this page is neither of the two potential names I’ve previously been aware are potential candidates!


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