Construction work begins at Voreda House

Representatives of Eden District Council and Collinson Construction have marked the beginning of refurbishment work at its new single site net zero carbon headquarters in Penrith with a traditional earth cutting ceremony.

Council Leader, Cllr Virginia Taylor, Council Chairman, Cllr Andrew Connell and Resources Portfolio Holder, Cllr Karen Greenwood attended the ceremony at Voreda House on behalf of Eden District Council. Richard Callaghan, Project Manager at Collinson Construction, who are the contractors working on the refurbishment of the building, also attended.

Following the completion of their initial enabling works in February, Collinson Construction are now on site to install security fencing and welfare accommodation for its construction workers. This work is being carried out ahead of construction work beginning, imminently.

Once the site compound has been established, the work to retrofit Voreda House to Passivhaus design principles will begin. The removal of the existing external cladding will begin in early April, once the retained areas in the central core of the building have been protected. It’s hoped work will be completed, ready for handover to the Council, before the end of the year.

Eden District Council has remained committed to moving to a single site to replace its current, outdated offices, Town Hall and Mansion House, for a number of years. The Council purchased Voreda House from the NHS in July 2020 specifically for this purpose.

Since the announcement on Local Government Reorganisation last summer, the vision for Voreda House has changed from being a straightforward single site for Eden District Council to being a modern, accessible public service hub for the new Westmorland and Furness unitary authority, built to the highest environmental standards.

The decision on the configuration of Local Government Reorganisation in Cumbria has only strengthened the need for a local service hub in Penrith at Voreda House. The chosen East-West configuration of the new unitary councils has resulted in an authority with a geographically large footprint, leaving significant distances between existing service centres in Eden, Barrow and South Lakeland.

No decision has been made as to the location of the headquarters of the new authority. However, the Council believes that the risk of local government services and jobs moving out of Penrith is much greater without Voreda House, and it remains fully committed to the delivery of the project.

Voreda House also provides an opportunity to co-locate with partners and create a new model of integrated public services for the area. The move to Voreda House will also open opportunities for the repurposing of Mansion House and the Town Hall to make greater contributions to the economic and cultural fabric of Penrith and the wider area.

Cllr Virginia Taylor, Leader of Eden District Council, said: “I’m delighted that the long-held aim of Eden District Council for a single site is now a reality. All the more so because, firstly Penrith can offer state of the art facilities to house increased local government jobs and services - just in time for the new unitary authority, and secondly because the building will lead the way in reducing carbon emissions.”

Robert Duxbury, managing director of Collinson Construction, said: “As well as helping the local authority to deliver services more efficiently from a single site, this project will give an outdated building a new lease of life and a bright, low-carbon future.

“We’re proud to be part of the team, all working together to make this important project a success for the council and its stakeholders.”

Founded in 2004, Collinson Construction specialises in both modern and traditional methods of construction. Based in Lancashire, the company has worked on a wide range projects across the UK and Ireland, including public sector buildings, education buildings, industrial and commercial buildings, and sports and leisure projects.

Rod Hughes, a Director at 2030 Architects Ltd, the Penrith based architects that have worked with the Council on the refurbishment plans for Voreda House, said: “We are very pleased to have contributed to the collaborative team effort which has taken this challenging, but unique Net Zero Carbon project from an initial concept through to a start on site. We hope that many more commercial buildings can aspire to achieving Net Zero Carbon operation and use Passivhaus as the design process to inform any refurbishment.”

Stephen Jackson of Baker Mallett LLP, a consultancy firm providing expertise in Passivhaus accreditation for the project, amongst other services, said: "Baker Mallett LLP is delighted to provide Quantity Surveying and Project Management services for the Voreda House project to ensure the efficient and cost effective delivery of this unique Net Zero Carbon initiative for Eden District Council."

Hannah Jones, Director at Greengauge who are the Passivhaus Consultants and Designers working on the project, said: “Greengauge are very pleased to be part of the team bringing Voreda House up to an exceptional energy efficiency standard. The Passivhaus standards are a demonstration of exceptional quality and energy efficiency.”

Passivhaus requires a two-stage design and assessment process, which is independently certified. Etude, a team of sustainability engineers with experience in energy policy, low energy building design, environmental assessment, and construction inspection, will undertake this work.

Eden District Council has received £850k grant funding from the Government to make the project net zero carbon. Salix Finance, a non-departmental public body owned wholly by Government, managed the transfer of these funds to the Council. Salix Finance provides 100% interest-free capital for the public sector to reduce their energy costs by enabling the installation of modern, energy-efficient technologies and replacing dated inefficient technologies.