Having previously delivered the International Broadcasting Centre and wider Here East development, Plexal in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at Stratford represents Cundall’s most recent work in this development. We were selected for the project for our knowledge of the site and experience with data centres.
Occupying the former broadcast and press centre for the 2012 Olympic Games, the centre is designed to support young and established businesses to work collaboratively as a community in a mini-city. Tech companies that focus on areas like health technology, AI, AR, VR, cybersecurity, data analytics and the Internet of Things can share ideas and be creative.
Plexal’s adaptable design matches the intended changing uses: it features flexible and modular office accommodation, meeting rooms and conference facilities, civic spaces, a Makers’ Yard (where rehearsals, events and prototyping can take place), an events stage and Plexal Park. These all feed back to the spine of the building and the central installation.
As well as the fixed desks, hot desks and private offices, Plexal offers innovation programmes and training and has launched a disability accelerator in partnership with the Global Disability Innovation Hub.
The design of the facility, with its changing requirements of multiple occupiers, required many clever engineering solutions from the Cundall team.
A significant challenge was how to provide cooling to the sealed office boxes when the existing four-pipe fan coil unit system was at high level. This was overcome by modification to the chilled water system and the creation of underfloor cooling zones to provide cooling from downflow zone units. This allows the floor to function not only as a raised floor to distribute power and data, but to supply cold fresh air to cool each individual office unit. The zone downflow units also meant ductwork, pipework, wall- and ceiling-mounted terminal units were not required in each office space, maximising floor area and clear heights.
Due to the differing requirements of the occupiers, the lighting also needed instant flexibility. The lighting design was about two key elements: the ability to move the luminaires to where they are needed, and the ability to quickly and easily re-programme the lighting controls.
Cundall Light4 opted for desk-mounted task lights, as they not only focus light where it is needed, but can be moved with the desk as an occupier company grows and reorganises. To support the flexibility of the lighting, integral Passive Infrared Sensors (PIRs) were also specified.
Light4 also specified OSRAM DALIeco Swarm adapters for the lighting control. The Swarm adapters use radio frequency bi-directional communication between luminaires, sensors and switches. The controls are set up with just a screwdriver to select the zone and luminaire group, which means that when a start-up company expands they only need move a temporary partition, desks and desk lamps. This eliminates the need for expensive re-wiring or lighting control re-commissioning costs.
With multiple stakeholders, the management of the design process was incredibly important. Cundall sketched up numerous options with clear graphic representations, showing the advantages and disadvantages of each engineering solution. This allowed all parties to understand and buy into a common consensus leading to a seamless design and user experience.
Plexal involved clever re-use of an existing space and system, creating a major change in use and additional space, while also retaining most of the existing systems.