First look at progress on £2.7m flats in former office block
PUBLISHED: 13:22 31 May 2019 | UPDATED: 13:09 01 June 2019
A £2.7m project to convert a former government office block into modern apartments is well under way.
The scheme at the Old Custom House in Dovercourt, near Harwich, is being led by Colchester's Horizon Construction and will see 34 new flats completed by August.
The three-storey building was originally built in the 1980s and for decades served as a base for HM Customs and Excise.
As well as being a fully functioning office for hundreds of staff it was also used as the holding base for seized contraband coming in on the nearby port.
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Last year it was sold to Essex Firm Robertson Sands Eco Development - with designers Snug Architects starting work on the conversion and refurbishment in the autumn.
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Duncan Clark & Beckett are the architects for the scheme and structural engineers, Superstructures were brought in to help with the design of some particularly challenging elements of the project, such as increasing the natural light to the central communal areas of the existing concrete building.
The solution is a large glass Lantern which has been installed on the roof and not only allows the sunlight to flood through the central atrium of the building, but also acts as a smoke vent in case of a fire.
Mark Hayward, director at Superstructures, said: "The challenge for us was undertaking significant alterations to the existing concrete structure, but also utilising its robust construction in our favour wherever possible to limit structural intervention.
"The need to enhance the natural lighting had to be balanced with a design that could be installed prior to alterations and avoided the requirement for significant temporary works and didn't compromise the existing structural integrity of the building.
He added: "The finished result looks brilliant, with a larger central area of the existing concrete roof being cut and broken out and then 16 large planes of glass installed within a steel frame.
"Cut outs have also been included in the design on each floor which have frameless glass balustrades and allow the natural light from the new atrium to filter down through each floor to the ground level."