Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, London

Since its founding in 1860, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home (BDCH) has cared for more than 3.1 million dogs and cats. Starting in 2014, a major redevelopment of the BDCH site, which sits adjacent to Battersea Power Station, adds not only a new assessment centre and intake kennels, but an eye-catching eight-storey veterinary hospital, training and administration building – creating a landmark facility for the organisation. For a building that needed to house a number of specialist services, and overcome a number of structural and spatial challenges, a JCT Construction Management contract provided the solution.

The £18m redevelopment of BDCH’s headquarters commenced in 2014 and came about as a result of a close relationship between the client and project architects, Jonathan Clark Architects, who had been working on one of BDCH’s other sites in Windsor. Recognising the need to foster a long-term working relationship in order to deliver buildings that meet the needs of the specialist services BDCH provides, JCA have been working on the redevelopment of the Battersea site, which is due to add further buildings in the coming months.

First completed in 2015 however, was the new assessment centre and 165-metre long intake kennel block with dog paddocks for training on the site’s western end. The entire roof is covered with a wildflower meadow blanket, which is designed to improve thermal efficiency, support city wildlife and add visual identity. The roof, alongside a number of other sustainable measures, including solar control, a natural ventilation system, high thermal mass, and a photovoltaic canopy, has gained the building top BREEAM rating. Loadbearing, block-work walls with pre-cast concrete are used throughout the kennels, whilst a combination of steel-frame and load-bearing walls is used for the intake centre. The external façade is faced with self-colour STO render. The coloured sections, moving from blue to green, to yellow and orange help to break up the length and give identity to the different sections. The intake centre entrance facia and blade structure are clad with Trespa panels.

The newest and by far the largest addition to the development is the state-of-the-art hospital and administration building. Rising eight storeys above a basement level on the eastern end of the site, it sits just 3.6m from the rail tracks. The building is striking in both the design and colour of the façade, with a pixelated pattern of blues, representing BDCH’s corporate colours, rising from a grey-clad plinth. The blues fade to lighter shades and, eventually, pale cream at the top, giving the impression that the building blends into the sky. The cladding material – vibrant and colourful glazed terracotta – has a shimmering quality and is also a reference to the masonry of the local Victorian buildings.

The main entrance is situated in a plaza which is held on the left by an angled extension to the ground floor. This contains the public waiting area and has a double height entrance canopy, which is topped by south-facing terraces serving the higher floors. The entrance leads to a double height lobby with timber slats lining the upper walls and ceiling. The complex set of the building’s functions – from cubicles for handling cat-flu cases to a corporate fund-raising suite – are arranged neatly on top of one another. The ground floor contains the hospital (above a basement level plant room and staff showers), laboratory, laundry, and hospital administration offices. Above that is a floor containing training and conference facilities, followed by four floors dedicated to administration, including fund raising, marketing, operations and HR. The central internal corridor that links the services on the lower levels forms a service spine for the upper levels. This allows for naturally ventilated open-plan offices with spectacular views courtesy of strips of floor-to-ceiling glazing. The top floor contains a boardroom and multi-use function area which can seat 190-230 people depending on the configuration, typically lectures or fund-raising events. The function room opens out to an external terrace.

Building to a height of eight storeys above a basement level that sits tightly between a low-level goods rail line to the north-east and a Southern Rail line to the west presented a significant set of challenges in terms of construction. A structural solution was devised that would maximise efficiency and make best use of space within the confined footprint. Due to poor ground conditions it was decided to build the foundations on a piled raft basement slab. This required the installation of 180 piles 20m deep, which also provided enough rigidity to guard against movement caused by northern line extension tunnelling works which were also taking place close to the site.

Above ground, the reinforced concrete superstructure consists of flat slabs spanning up to 8.3m between reinforced concrete walls and columns. To overcome the challenge of having limited vehicular access to the site, the concrete structure was constructed in-situ, to reduce the need for delivery of larger building components.

The flat slab system provides flexibility in the arrangement of partitions and services and was also beneficial in the construction of the open-plan office spaces on the upper levels.

Another challenge to overcome was the materials and specification of the external cladding, which needed to consider the site’s restricted access, the potential corrosion from ferrous particles due to the proximity of the train lines, ease of maintenance, and durability. In choosing the glazed terracotta, reflection studies and simulations also had to be carried out to ensure that train drivers would not be affected by the sunlight reflected on the tiles.

With such a degree of specialist services to provide, as well as a number of technical construction challenges to overcome, the JCT Construction Management contract is the ideal solution for this type of project – which requires close collaboration and teamwork, and the need to have works carried out by a number of specialist practitioners. Considering that BDCH is a charity and funding for the project would have to be planned very carefully, the JCT Construction Management contract keeps the project on a tight leash.

Start: November 2014
Completion: July 2016
Size: 4,000m²
Cost: £18m
Contract: JCT Construction Management contract (CM)
Client: Battersea Dogs and Cats Home (BDCH)
Architect: Jonathan Clark Architects
Main contractor: Sir Robert McAlpine
Structural engineer: Fluid Structures
Quantity surveyor and cost consultants: PT Projects
M&E services engineer and sustainability consultant: Mendick Waring
Acoustic engineer: Sandy Brown Associates
CAD software: Vectorworks
Annual C02 emissions: 17kg/m²

Image: Jonathan Clark Architects Ltd and Hufton + Crow