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Harborough District Council office refurbishment

Complex refurbishment of a Grade 2 listed building, which included numerous variations

The refurbishment of this Grade 2-listed 19th century building – a former corset factory – posed numerous conservation challenges, including protecting an internal Roman mosaic.

The four-storey building had to be redeveloped to include new retail units, a café, library and a museum. Willmott Dixon planned the works during a six-month pre-construction phase under a design-and-build contract.

During the refurbishment, HDC had to decant into temporary offices, so to minimise rental costs, they wanted the work delivered to an extremely tight programme.

“Project manager Terry Downes' drive and commitment was key in ensuring a refurbishment of high quality. He had total respect for the heritage of the building, while delivering an office fit for purpose in the 21st Century.”

Mark Perris, corporate asset manager, Harborough District Council

Building services

Willmott Dixon changed the ventilation specification, replacing the air displacement system in the original design with a natural ventilation system using existing windows. This saved HDC £370,000 from its energy bill, and helped the building achieve a B rating on its energy performance certificate – unusual for a Grade II-listed building.

The refurbished building had minimal suspended ceilings – which could not be altered due to conservation requirements – so all services had to be exposed, which required a fine balance between aesthetics and functionality.

Programme and variations

The library and museum was not included in the original contract, but after the council received funding for the work, this £700,000 variation was added to the project, and delivered by Willmott Dixon without delaying the programme.

Midway through the project, the council chief executive requested that the half-height glazed partitioning on the third floor be replaced with fully-glazed partitions. At the same time, the council also agreed to provide office space for the local job centre on the second floor. Both these variations were completed within the original programme period.

Despite the variations and tight programme, the building was delivered three weeks ahead of schedule. Willmott Dixon won a bronze award with the Considerate Constructors’ Scheme – a great achievement given the project involved working 'cheek by jowl' with local businesses and residents.


  • Grade 2-listed, 19th Century former corset factory
  • Numerous variations during the project, which was still delivered three weeks early
  • Changing ventilation design saved client money and boosted EPC rating
  • Busy town centre site, with residents and businesses in close proximity




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