Derby Council House Derby, UK


Derby City Council







Derby Council appointed Corstorphine & Wright to completely refurbish its main building with the aim of bringing together 2,000 employees.

Responsibility included provisioning office accommodation for elected members and political areas, as well as creating a new council chamber for public and private meetings – all in a single location. 

The vision was to create a one-stop shop for local services while making it easier for staff to work with the public and across departments.


The project commenced in January 2010. We gained planning by December 2010 and completed in December 2012.

At the time of our appointment, it was clear that – while locally listed – the building was complex and not in great condition. It had suffered from further sub-division of original cellular layouts, creating poor internal spaces and an unpleasant working environment.

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As part of the design process, we spoke to staff from all departments to determine the optimum number of desks and meeting rooms. This helped us design for improved flow and increased productivity.

The most important spaces were considered to be the pediment steps, mayor’s lobby, grand staircase, mayoral rooms on the first floor and council chamber.

While a reasonably impressive space – influenced by 1950s aesthetics – the council chamber was not a part of the original design. It had a rather clumsy structure, creating poor-quality spaces both above and below. It was determined that the chamber should be relocated as part of the project.


To safeguard the building during this design development stage, we gained a certificate of immunity from English Heritage. We also produced a detailed heritage impact assessment alongside the Design and Access Statement. 

The project had ambitious sustainability targets of BREEAM ‘Excellent’ and EPC A ratings, and we were able to exceed these. Leveraging the building’s location on the edge of the River Derwent, we developed a plan for a hydroelectric generator to deliver clean, renewable power. This initiative lifted the EPC rating to A+ and resulted in a final BREEAM score of 81.

While the construction budget was set at £30 million, competitive tender returns enabled Derby Council to bring the project – including all fixtures and fittings – well below this figure.

The external fabric of the building has been retained and enhanced, with the u-values of the façade substantially improved. A new entrance facing public realm space has been installed, complemented by a dedicated staff entrance that originally formed access to the courtyard space. Existing roofs have been reconstructed to modern standards, which further improve the insulation values. 


The central atrium space has been constructed with a steel-framed structure and a large circular fanned roof light, which defines the circumference of the chamber space and creates a welcoming environment. New floor space has been created using large spanning pre-cast floors and a new steel frame inserted within the existing building envelope.

The result is a light-filled, open-plan space within the existing envelope, while preserving historic features.


New floor space has been created using large-spanning, pre-cast floors and inserting a new steel frame within the building envelope.


We worked closely with conservation officers and received a Certificate of Immunity from English Heritage, which led to creative retention and refurbishment of the impressive mayor’s staircase and mayor’s chamber.

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