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Work is starting in Colombo on the renovation, refurbishment and partial new-build of the British Council building. Concept design has been carried out by Jestico+Whiles, a UK-based firm, while Design Forum are acting as project architects. Throughout the design, improving the environmental performance of the buildings has been tantamount, with the project targeting a BREEAM Very Good, with aspirations for a BREEAM Excellent rating. The design of the building meets standard British Council standards while incorporating Sri Lankan elements to give it a local identity.

Phase 1, currently underway, involves the demolition of part of the pre-existing structure and construction of a new-build section. Composed of a laminated glass façade on the ground floor, the upper level is cement blockwork. Phase 2 will see the original ‘villa’ building be renovated and phase 3 will involve enlarging and refurbishing the entranceway.

A team of ecologists, Geckoella, has been involved throughout, to ensure minimum impact on the biodiversity on site, to help design features to assist the local ecology, to make the most of green features as valuable additions to the working and learning environment and to gain extra points for BREEAM accreditation. A number of large Sri Lankan Ironwood trees have been protected and retained, while water features, fruit trees, some areas of green roof and a dragonfly habitat are being created, as well as a planting strategy that will make the space attractive to both humans and wildlife.

The buildings will be air conditioned, but a new chiller is being fitted with variable speeds so that the demand can be matched, to avoid over-specifying.

Demolishing work is providing rubble for back-filling, as well as glass to be re-used. The asbestos in the old buildings is being removed under controlled conditions. In the ‘villa’ the false ceilings and partition walls are being stripped out to restore the original layout and create open offices with separate meeting rooms and other function areas.

Herman Miller chairs will be used throughout, which specialize in designing for disassembly so that materials can be easily re-used or recycled at the end of the life of the chair. Similarly Tandus and Interface carpets will be used throughout; Interface operate a system of leasing carpets so that they are eventually returned to the manufacturers for recycling.
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