It has been named the Public Building Retrofit Project of the Year at the recent Retro Expo awards held at the NEC in Birmingham. The awards celebrate Britain's most inspiring retrofit products, projects and people.
Beating off strong competition, the Town Hall impressed the judges with all aspects of the refurbishment project, particularly the dramatic reduction in the building’s energy rating from E to A which is reducing carbon emissions by 61% and annual energy costs by £50,000.
The judges commented: "The Town Hall was refurbished by Willmott Dixon on behalf of North Somerset Council to house 50% more staff. It demonstrates how a major refurbishment of an existing poor quality office building can deliver a workplace transformation capable of 21st century needs."
The new flexible working space on the three upper floors now has capacity for around 950 staff. The accessible public area, which is open seven days a week, includes a brand new library and easy access to council services such as housing, licensing and council tax and benefits advice. On 2 January the police enquiries service will also move to the Town Hall.
The first month of opening saw 42,000 visitors come through the doors - 11,000 (35%) more than projected. In a survey carried out with more than 200 members of the public as they left the building, 96% rated their overall experience as 'good' - the top rating available.
The improvements are part of the council’s innovative programme to reduce its offices from 18 to two cost efficient ‘hubs’ – the Town Hall and Castlewood in Clevedon – where council staff work alongside partners in the NHS, Agilisys and Liberata to deliver more integrated services. It is estimated the efficiencies delivered by programme will result in annual savings of £700,000 by 2015.
"I am delighted to see so many people using the new building and the particularly high levels of visitor satisfaction," said Cllr Nigel Ashton, Leader of the Council. "Our intention all along has been to provide a much better service for local people, to improve the way we work as a council and, at a time when we are facing severe budget challenges, to save money. The early signs are this pioneering project is delivering on all fronts and to be recognised with a national award so soon really is the icing on the cake."
Willmott Dixon carried out the work through the Scape framework and Neal Stephens, the company’s managing director in the South West, said: “As councils rationalise their property to ensure they get ‘more for less’, projects like this will become more important. This award, which recognises the huge efficiency gains this project has delivered the council, shows how it’s possible to invest in creating an excellent working environment alongside achieving better value for the public purse.”