Fresh space to grow


By Siobhan Davitt

Offices for business start-ups will maximise flexibility and commercial value

The concept of business incubators is not a new one. Originating in the 1950s, their goal is to nurture innovation by bringing academic, enterprise and investor networks together under one roof. With future technological developments promising to alter society at a fundamental level, it is more important than ever to be investing in innovation.

The Parkside Office Village on the University of Essex’s Knowledge Gateway site near Colchester, reflects the growing trend for enterprise parks on University campuses. We were commissioned to provide a 40,000ft2 office building following the development of an Innovation Centre on the site, which was designed as part of the University’s masterplan.

We started by exploring a number of capacity studies to test how the brief could be accommodated with regard to the site's physical and planning constraints. As a result, a further 40,000ft2 building was identified that could be accommodated in a future phase. The ability to phase the development will help to ensure maximum return on investment over a period of time, meeting current demand on the site whilst safeguarding future development potential.

The design of the public realm, car-parking, landscaping, and access ensures that either of the two identified plots could be developed independently and in any order.

The building has been planned to offer maximum flexibility and commercial value. The site is located at a key east facing entrance, on an open sloping site. The buildings have been positioned to minimise disruption to retained mature trees, and open up views to the remaining campus. Each building is arranged in a compact footprint to avoid a relegated external space. Surrounding buildings benefit from the resulting visibility and access afforded by the ‘pavilion’ massing.

Designed to be delivered independently according to demand, floor layouts have been planned to ensure a maximum of four individual leased spaces per level, arranged around a central core. This gives each potential tenant open views from two orientations, and lots of natural light, which adds to commercial attractiveness.

Floor plates have been designed to meet BCO standards in terms of plan-depth, floor to ceiling heights, planning grids and servicing. A central core solution has been adopted to ensure the maximum flexibility in terms of sub-divisibility. Each floor plate can efficiently sub-divide into four individual offices. The 9m plan depth ensures that all space is adequately day lit and can therefore adapt to a number of uses. Equally, if in future a natural ventilated space was required, the façade could readily adapt. The 9m structural grid and 1.5m planning grid ensures that open plan or cellular arrangement can be easily be accommodated without major disruption.

In order to avoid unnecessary expenditure, each building is designed to maximise the efficiency of the floor plate area, capitalising on valuable space against non-valuable space. The extent of the external envelope is similarly minimised. Likewise, a central core design ensures that circulation areas are minimised. Sub-division can be achieved with limited impact on the floor-plate efficiency.

The building plots are oriented to frame a southwest oriented public space which serves as an arrival space concentrating footfall from existing routes and the wider campus and car-parking areas. Prominent and legible building entrances are oriented to relate to one another and activate the central space.

Studies undertaken to maximise the development potential of the site were mindful of the ecological impact of the new buildings. In determining the final site layout, a habitat appraisal was undertaken and a clear ecological strategy developed. All tenancies can be individually metered and the building design achieves BREEAM Very Good.


Siobhan Davitt

Siobhan Davitt

Siobhan is experienced in delivering complex projects across a range of sectors.

She is focused on design quality
and client service.