To find and acquire new freehold offices for University College of Estate Management’s (UCEM) relocation within a specified timescale ensuring all refurbishment and fit out works met the highest sustainability criteria.
Taurus Developments was appointed by UCEM at the end of December 2014 to search and acquire an as yet unidentified building, in the centre of Reading. The acquisition would allow UCEM to relocate from its premises on Whiteknights Campus at the University of Reading, where it had been for over 40 years. UCEM’s proposed move after so many years marked a significant milestone in its history, reflecting its independence as an academic institution with its own taught degree awarding powers and progression to full university status
Having started with a ‘blank canvas’, Taurus Developments had to establish both a full project brief and detailed budget before setting out to find the new building. At the outset, we undertook a thorough assessment of both current and future working standards and environments with the staff to help us understand what was required.
The first stage was to procure a professional consultancy for architecture, building services, cost consultancy, fit out and project management through a competitive tendering and appointment process. We also managed the professional team in establishing the scope, detail and design of these works.
Having undertaken an intensive dual search process – for both a short-term leasehold and freehold premises – Taurus Developments identified 60 Queens Road, owned by The Church Commissioners for England, but not being openly marketed, as an appropriate site. To ensure a swift transaction, we managed the acquisition process from negotiating favourable terms and pre-acquisition due diligence to ensuring that contracts for the 23,000 sq ft (2,140 m2) site exchanged as soon as practical. To ensure vacant possession, completion was agreed for the end of the year, and the transaction finalised in December 2015
We knew that the challenge to complete the total refurbishment and fit out of an inefficient and unsustainable 1980s building into modern day offices able to compete with the sustainable capabilities of a brand new building, were only just beginning.
Work commenced in January 2016 with Taurus Developments overseeing the refurbishment and fit out project, ensuring contractor conformity to the agreed design right through to practical completion in June. Once the building was ready, we also managed the physical move from Whiteknights Campus to the refurbished 60 Queens Road a few weeks later.
Having found the appropriate site at 60 Queens Road, the challenge to undertake a full refurbishment and fit out programme was very real with a tight six month timescale. The full team, which in addition to oursleves included GVA Acuity as project manager, Overbury as lead contractor, architectural and interior design consultants Schema Studio, BREEAM consultant and assessor Hilson Moran, Bigham Anderson Partnership as cost consultant and GVA as building services consultant, started on site in early January 2016.
The refurbished building has been certified as “Excellent” under BREEAM’s Refurbishment and Fit Out Scheme with a score of 73.10%, one of the highest scores recorded in the UK and the highest in the Education Sector since it was introduced in 2014.
Practical completion took place in June and UCEM moved into its new HQ, now called Horizons, in July, two weeks ahead of schedule.
In May 2017, UCEM was shortlisted for the Construction News Awards in the Sustainable Project of the Year category, demonstrating how much can be achieved.