Contemporary modern office building in Bristol
© Wienerberger UK

Case Study

The Distillery

Discover how Anglesey Weathered Buff brick helped create this contemporary office building while harmonising with Bristol's historic architecture.

A brief from one of the UK’s leading property investment organisations, Royal London Asset Management (RLAM), to create a vibrant and inspirational new office development in the heart of Bristol presented the project team with a series of interrelated design objectives. High amongst the objectives was respecting the site’s unique history as well as its surroundings. The target standards set by the client for the  interconnecting buildings on Plot 2 at Glassfields in Bristol were to achieve BREEAM Excellent, Energy Performance Certificate A rating and Fitwel 2* accreditation.  

To achieve such high accreditations, sustainability had to be at the very core of the building’s design and through to its execution. To reduce the embodied carbon, a 50% Ground Granulated Blasted-furnace Slag (GGBS), a by-product used for cement replacement, was used within the substructure concrete. Additionally, reinforced steel consisting of 98% recycled scrap metal was employed for the construction. These alternative methods help to achieve an embodied carbon of 469 kgCO2e/m2, an improvement on the LETI 2020 construction target for offices of 600 kgCO2e/m2. Measures to increase the Distillery’s operational energy performance were also incorporated, such as through the installation of a 288m2 array of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof, enabling the generation of onsite renewable energy.

In addition to energy efficiency, an external 105m2 green wall has been installed, alongside bee and bug hotels, and bird boxes on the roof. Not only do these initiatives promote biodiversity, but enhance occupier health and wellbeing through improving the local air quality and providing visible green infrastructure to enjoy. Furthermore, passive design measures, such as an efficient building envelope, were integrated to help reduce future overheating, creating comfortable working conditions for occupiers.

In terms of the properties’ form and impact on the streetscape, masonry was an obvious choice, but the type and colour of brick needed to both resonate with the location and offer the right appearance for use within atria-like and covered street spaces, as well as across exterior elevations  Long term durability and all-round physical characteristics were similarly important.   

Appointed by RLAM as Design Lead, AWW used their extensive experience of high profile, challenging commissions to sensitively develop a design to interpret the development’s technical and aesthetic demands. The buildings’ design therefore not only delivers in commercial terms, but also responds to the site’s history, as part of the former glassmaking district: informed by the discovery of centuries-old gin bottles, buried in what is largely made-up ground.

Centrally and conveniently positioned within the historic city, Plot 2 occupies just over half a hectare of the 1.3-hectare site, and now offers 90,000 square feet of high specification office space; being named ‘The Distillery’ in reference to the Bristol Distillery Company building which stood there from 1880 until 1940.

AWW’s vision was to create the best workplace for people to flourish, so this fully flexible design blurs the edges of inside and outside, with people able to move freely through the spaces; hence the buildings are not a regular shape, having been set at angles to allow for visual and physical connectivity.  Permitting people to make visual connections entices them through the site.

Echoing the industrial archaeology, The Distillery features a ‘living wall’ containing 15 different gin botanicals with the copper design representing a traditional gin still while, according to Royal London, the piping mirrors the distillation process.  The nine-storey buildings aim to encourage connectivity for occupants and visitors, with the link bridge designed to connect people physically and metaphorically.

Another key theme is ‘vibrancy’ that has been achieved through the purposefully uniform street front façades contrasting with the organic interiors and the multisensory full height green wall, copper clad reception and circulation area.  But the buildings have also been designed to be sensitive to the great trading city’s past, while remaining very contemporary.

In particular, the brickwork specified - Wienerberger’s Anglesey Weathered Buff – helps avoid the pastiche often unintentionally created when new meets old.  Instead, the gentle creases in the bricks, along with the buff and grey hues, soften the buildings into the urban landscape, creating a feeling of harmony. 


Detail of the brick facade using Wienerberger's Anglesey Weathered Buff bricks
© Wienerberger UK

"The nine-storey buildings aim to encourage connectivity for occupants and visitors,

with the link bridge designed to connect people physically and metaphorically."

Wienerberger’s Anglesey Weathered Buff brick was selected by AWW for The Distillery to help create the buildings’ clean and contemporary appearance, while also harmonising with the much earlier properties in this historic area of central Bristol.

This has been achieved through the overall massing of the new structures, stepping down in height, while subtle changes in the building line draw the eye, with the brick colour complementing older adjacent properties. 

Anglesey Weathered Buff is a high-quality facing brick of medium strength, offering a light multi aesthetic as well as good frost resistance and other positive physical characteristics. In addition to the standard 215 x 65 x 102.5mm dimension bricks, Wienerberger also worked closely with AWW to produce an array of complimentary bespoke specials to ensure their design was realised for this project.

Kier Construction’s specialist sub-contractor, Taurus Brickwork Ltd. laid the Wienerberger bricks using a Class 3, M4 mortar mix, supplied by Tarmac Building Products’ Mortar & Screed division. Produced in the Yellow Buff (Y113) colour option.

According to AWW, the exterior of The Distillery contributes to the streetscape and adopts a warehouse aesthetic, synonymous with Bristol’s harbour-side locations. And this vernacular is carried through to the weather sheltered street with expanses of the Anglesey brickwork visible to building occupants as they rise through the main stairways to the upper levels.

AWW’s Project Director, Mark Alker Stone, commented on this element to the development saying: “An amazing street space forms the heart of the building and connects floor plates through a central street space arranged to invoke collaboration and creative thinking, with meeting and breakout areas.” 


Project Summary

  • Location: Glassfield, Bristol
  • Architects: AWW
  • Clients: Royal London Assets Management
  • Contractors: Taurus Brickwork 
Products Used
Modern office building with glass front and roof

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