The Quays New Office and Service Response Centre 

Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council

Project of the Year Winner 2008

Client Neath Port Talbot CBC
Contract Value £12.5 million
Date of Practical Completion December 2007
Designing Department Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council Environment
Project Managers and Quantity Surveyors Gardiner & Theobald
Structural Engineering, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Connell Mott McDonald
Architects HMA Architects Cardiff
Design and Build Contractor Interserve Project Services Ltd.
Design Consultants-Post Contract HMA Architects Cardiff
M&E Consulting Engineers R W Gregory & Partners
Structural Engineers Bingham Hall Partnership Ltd


Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, as part of a strategic accommodation review, has consolidated various facilities to improve efficiency and replace several offices and depots.

The new accommodation falls into two distinct types. Firstly, general office accommodation, and secondly, various workshops, storage, ancillary office and vehicle depot functions, which have been gathered into the Service Response Centre. Spare land on the site has been made available for possible future development by the Council, or by a private developer.

The Site

The site is located at the western end of the Baglan Energy Park – Briton Ferry, lying between Brunel’s historic floating dock on the River Neath, and a new factory.

A Flood Consequence Assessment was and the building and site levels have been set in accordance with its parameters. The new office building is adjacent to the green edge of river, in the part of the site that is most visible from the main approach road and acts as a gateway building at the Western end of the Energy Park.

Parking & Landscaping

Parking is provided in two distinct categories – a large area of hard surfacing for the council’s vehicle pool of vans, lorries etc, and a car park for visitors and the staff of both buildings. The car park has been arranged in an elliptical form, fitting the shape of the north east corner of the site. Generous landscaping strips break up the parking bays and are planted with a high proportion of native species, including the heathers of the local hills, and other plants suitable for the exposed coastal conditions, to encourage the local wildlife.

Design for Disabled People

The Neath Port Talbot operational policies support an inclusive accessible environment. The buildings were designed to permit barrier free access for ambulant disabled people, able bodied people and trolley or wheelchair users alike, minimising the physical effort required to use the buildings, thus maximising their efficiency in use for all. Physical access around the buildings is discussed above but other needs of disabled users have been accommodated at the detail level e.g. by use of appropriate colour contrasts, signage, communication aids, sanitary and changing accommodation, staff facilities.

Sustainable Design

The scheme has been awarded a very good rating under the BREEAM certification scheme. Specific issues that were implemented:

  • The sustainable sourcing of materials such as timer for the internal finishes.
  • Avoidance of deep plan office spaces, to enable work stations to be well lit by natural daylight, and enable workers to be near a window.
  • Use of solar shading to reduce solar gain during the summer.
  • Better thermal insulation than would be required under the building regulations, and avoidance of all glass office elevations.
  • Recycling facilities.
  • On site café facilities to reduce the need for workers to drive off site.
  • Bicycle shelters, shower and locker facilities for cyclists.

One of the key decisions was to set the width of the office floorplate at a relatively narrow 13.5m. This would enable good natural day lighting to the open plan office space.

The need for at least three escape staircases and a central lift core, a desire to create an airy communal break-out space and the constraints of the site planning philosophy led to the concept of two parallel wings, overlapping each other and joined by an atrium and circulation core. The building was orientated on a broadly east-west axis so that the wide elevations were facing north-south and therefore, solar shading could be optimised.

The architectural expression of the elevations is directly related to the choice of materials and the main structural grid spacing of 7.5m. The elevations are organised generally into a series of cladding frames and curtain wall central panels. However, to make the composition more dynamic and increase the presence of the building in sculptural terms, we considered the way the different blocks of building related together and introduced some simple angular forms to put an emphasis or accent on the following parts:-

  • Main atrium entrance on the east, with a sloping glazed roof, projecting forward over the entrance lobby. It rises above the general office roof parapets.

  • The west entrance, approached from the SRC and leading to the café and breakout area, using a low monopitch roof with large overhangs.

  • The eastern end of the north wing, made into its own independent wedge shape form, “floating” over the ground floor glazing and landscaping. This is a focal point and is the leading corner of the building when approached from the site entrance.

  • The central stair, lifts and toilets were emphasised by the additional 3rd floor to house the main plant rooms. They were central in plan to allow ducts to drop straight into each of the office floor wings and were exploited as the highest point of the building to create a second, but large wedge shape. Like the other, its sides project at an angle to form a cowl around the still vertical glazed and clad elevation.

Both of the wedge shaped blocks are coloured differently to the main background elements and provide interest to the form of the building without compromising the efficiency of the plan or the structure. They are separated from the adjacent parts by a glazed strip of elevation, marking the axis of the bridge between both wings.

Gareth Nutt and Allan Stonehouse of Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council with Peter Rees, CLAW Chairman, following the presentation of the Building of the Year Award 2008