National Trust Headquarters
In Brief

The National Trust/
Kier Ventures


Development value:

June 2005

Heelis is the award-winning headquarters for the UK’s largest charity, the National Trust. Sustainability is at the heart of the National Trust’s mission and FCBStudios was briefed to develop the most sustainable building possible within the available budget.

Located in Swindon, the new Central Office we have created has satisfied that brief and gained two of the most prestigious sustainability awards in the UK from RIBA and the Civic Trust in the process. The project demonstrates that it is possible to achieve significant improvements in the performance of typical commercial buildings built to similar budgets. 

In form and scale the building makes reference to the tough industrial architecture of the engineering works that once covered much of the site.

Swindon was chosen for its relative proximity to the existing National Trust bases and its excellent public transport connections. The building, with 76,500 square feet of office space, is located on the site of Brunel’s Great Western Railway works, to the north west of Swindon town centre where at the height of activity in the late 19th century 14,000 people were employed.

Its "deep plan" form is a contemporary interpretation of the historic workshop buildings where natural light and ventilation were the only options in terms of environmental control.

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The trapezoidal plan form synthesises the geometry of the adjacent 19th century buildings, with north-south oriented roof pitches for solar energy collection and controlled natural light, and a “desire line” which traverses the site from the south east.

The building has been designed to provide a minimum daylight factor of 5% to all regularly occupied areas, minimising the use of artificial light by means of a fully dimmable lighting control system.

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"Heelis is near perfection in the early-21st century, flat-screen, low-rise, open-plan office environment - with masterful attention to sustainability."
British Construction Industry Awards 2006
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We've designed the two-storey deep plan building to provide an exemplary working environment.

The new office has already achieved an ‘excellent’ BREEAM rating and is expected to generate less than 20Kg of CO2/m2 each year.  The environmental design and minimised energy usage has put in place the possibility of approaching carbon neutrality.

It offers 76,500 square feet of office space, meeting rooms and workshops for 470 staff, plus a shop and café, and brings together a workforce previously dispersed over four locations.

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Design Approach

The saw tooth roof form provides an even distribution of daylight and ventilation across the plan depth, while a series of atria connect the two storeys, creating a real sense of the whole organisation sharing a single volume.

The floor to ceiling height of 3.7metres at ground floor is unusually high, but designed to ensure that both natural light and ventilation work efficiently throughout the plan depth. Roof glazing to the central atrium allows sunlight to animate the ‘breakout’ space for much of the day. 

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"This beautifully restrained project has more than fulfilled the client's expectations. Four Hundred building users are now enthusiastic about this model low-energy office building on a Brownfield site."
RIBA Awards

A bespoke carpet made from undyed Herdwick wool from sheep grazed on National Trust farmland is used throughout desk areas and meeting rooms.  The carpet is very durable and long-lasting and we hope this commission will help support the commercial viability of the flock. 

The atrium provides a contrasting environment, with its south-facing wall and staircase clad in a variety of timber from National Trust estates, which runs through to the courtyard adjacent. 

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2008 Fassa Bortolo International Prize for Sustainable Architecture
2008 Building Performance Awards: Sustainability Award
2007 Civic Trust Awards: Sustainability Award
2007 Civic Trust Award
2007 The Sustainability Awards: Sustainable Building of the Year - Large Project
2006 RIBA Award
2006 BCO Awards: Innovation Award
2006 British Institute of Facilities Management Awards: Building of the Year
2006 RIBA Sustainability Award
2005 The International FX Interior Design Awards: Best Medium/Large Office Building 

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Project Manager:
Buro Four Project Services
Structural Engineer:
Adams Kara Taylor 
M&E Engineer:
Max Fordham LLP 
Cost Consultant:
Davis Langdon 
Landscape Consultant:
Grant Associates 
Façade Consultant:
Montresor Partnership
Simon Doling, David Levenson 

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