A new speculative office building for Sunderland City Centre designed with health and wellbeing at its core

‘The Beam’ by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios , has become the first phase centrepiece of the ambitious regeneration of the former Vaux Brewery site in Sunderland City Centre. The first building to be completed on the landmark Vaux site, The Beam is part of a 15 year regeneration project which, once complete, will extend the city centre, create thousands of jobs and have a major social and economic impact on the region. It is a catalyst for Sunderland’s future.

The £20 million speculative office building provides five floors of Grade A accommodation with views across the River Wear towards the Wearmouth Bridge and ground floor retail, café and restaurant offers.

The project has been efficient and lean in its construction to not only ensure its embodied energy is minimised, but also that it is cost effective. This has been achieved through an innovative low embodied energy, hybrid steel and pre-cast concrete frame, that was quick to construct. The lean construction system gives a desired character and finish architecturally and helps to reduce embodied carbon – often overlooked as the major carbon consumer in the life of the building.

Designed with wellbeing and sustainability at its heart, The Beam offers a sustainable workplace that promotes a healthy work-life balance. The building is very simple to manage, without overly complicated controls and systems.

feiSustainable measures include: naturally ventilated office spaces, shaded external facades, covered and enclosed cycle parking, with shower and changing facilities, high efficiency gas condensing boilers, 40% optimum glazing – reducing heat loss/gains, well-insulated and air tight construction and access to local transport infrastructure within 5 minutes’ walk of the building.

Its design is rooted in its place – a building for Sunderland. A ‘liner’ of a building, its horizontal lines and prow reflect the shipping heritage of Sunderland, while its bronze finishes are reminiscent of not only shipping, but of the brewing kettles of the Vaux Brewery. Its exposed steel structure is intended to resonate with the trusses of the Wearmouth Bridge.

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Simon Doody, Partner at FCBStudios said: “The Beam has been meticulously designed to pay homage to the city’s culture, from the Wearmouth Bridge to the city’s maritime and lighting heritage,” he adds. “The first thing we considered was the position of the building and its proximity to the bridge.”

“The bridge is built on these glorious Victorian structures and, coupled with its heavyweight girders and trusses, this informed how we started to think about the front of the building which looks out over the Keel Line.

Externally its expression rejects the trend for full height vertical windows, and instead has developed a holistic approach to shading and ventilation through its softly perforated, horizontally pleated façade.

Office spaces wrap around three sides of a courtyard atrium which is vibrantly planted, open to the sky and protected from the wind. As an open-air space, it will lend itself to staff meetings, lunch breaks and potential events.

The atrium brings daylight and fresh air deep into the building’s core, supported by opening windows and generous floor to ceiling heights which help the natural ventilation and allow for natural lighting throughout the building. Exposed concrete ceilings provide thermal mass that helps keep the building warm in winter and cool in summer.

The building offers fantastic views of Sunderland taking in the Wearmouth Bridge, the Roker Lighthouse and the North Sea beyond. The raised and sheltered atrium opens to these views, while the ribbon windows of the office spaces offer panoramic views.

Internal public areas are characterised by natural materials and planting. Integrated planters in the upper level courtyard with climbing plants running up the full height of the facades connect the upper level users to nature, whilst improving the air quality. Secure cycle parking facilities are provided to the back of the building, with direct secure access to ground floor changing and shower facilities.

Cllr Graeme Miller, Leader of Sunderland City Council said: “The Beam is a stunning building, and one that will pave the way for the creation of a vibrant new corner of the city centre as the wider VAUX site is developed. Not only will it provide a huge boost to the local economy, but it will also add to the already impressive offering of Keel Square and the Cultural Quarter and will transform the city.

The Beam is a central pillar to what we’re trying to do in Sunderland, with a £0.5bn City Council investment for the city centre in the 15-year period to 2030, and it’s wonderful to see it finally starting to come to fruition.”

Global grocery business Ocado have recently taken two floors and are beginning to move into their new state of art city centre office. The social impact on the city is eagerly anticipated as follow-on phases for new civic offices are in progress.

Procured through a joint venture between Sunderland City Council, Carillion and Igloo. The Beam is now solely owned by Sunderland City Council.