Case Study

160 hours of expert design and technical consultation transforms 1970s Herman Miller factory for Bath Spa University

The refurbishment of this listed building called for our very best acoustic and fire protection solutions and over 160 hours of expert consultation to overcome unique, complex design challenges and technical performance requirements.

“We wanted a building and campus that would encourage our students to work more ambitiously than they already are, in a space that would allow them to collaborate with one another. We also wanted an art and design school that would be fit for the future. It’s the relationship between the three main parties – British Gypsum, Grimshaw Architects and Willmott Dixon – that has resulted in something which I consider to be phenomenal as an academic institution.”

Daniel Adams, Head of School, Bath Spa University

Refurbishing an adaptable and flexible space

Situated on the River Avon in Bath, the Herman Miller Factory was first designed by Terry Farrell and Nicholas Grimshaw in 1976. The furniture company’s factory was designed not only to be technically-sound and large enough to accommodate the manufacturing activity, but flexible too, so it could evolve over time.

This was achieved through developing a modular system of insulated GRP façade panels that the building’s users could rearrange. Externally, this gave the project its unique identity and signature pale-yellow appearance.

Over the years, the exterior and interior has been rearranged several times. And now, thanks to our collective know-how and expertise, the Grade II listed building has undergone a major refurbishment to contain a mix of teaching facilities, workshops and social spaces for Bath Spa University’s School of Art & Design.

Combined expertise to achieve the shared vision

The interior layout of the existing building was reconfigured to create an open plan floor with a series of fixed workshops, flexible studio spaces, social areas and meeting rooms.

The tall ceilings, high walls, fire protection, and acoustic requirements – along with the demands of restoring and retaining a lot of the original features – meant we needed to source innovative solutions and collaborate with all parties involved on the intricate detailing to achieve the best results.

We worked closely with Grimshaw Architects to advise on the fire protection of complex steel work and the integration of new partition systems. We were also trusted to provide ongoing technical support to the main building contractor, Willmott Dixon, and subcontractor, Topfix Interiors to ensure the project left a positive legacy for current and future generations

In total, we provided 130 hours of technical support and a further 30 hours of specific project detailing to bring value to the customer through higher productivity, trusted solutions and reduced long-term costs

Henry Turner, Grimshaw Architects, observes,“The heavy workshop was one of the most complex areas in terms of fire, acoustics and its robustness, but we also had to deal with seven metre tall walls, and interfacing new and existing structures. There was also the challenge of working with the existing steel beams as there was a lot of deflection. It’s a real testament to the skills of all those involved that we were able to work together to overcome the complexities of this project.”

Integrating new with old for the perfect finish

Several high performing solutions were selected to achieve multiple objectives throughout the building, such as GypWall Robust, GypWall Extreme, ShaftWall, GypWall Classic, GypWall Twin Frame Braced, CasoLine MF, Shaftwall, and Glasroc F FireCase.

One of the main challenges of the job was deflection. The iconic yellow steel beams are part of the original design, but when loaded there’s a lot of movement. To overcome this, we drew up details for the project that ensured this movement was accounted for, meaning the solutions stayed where required, with no cracking of the plaster finishes to increase durability and maximise performance.

The workshop areas were also complex due to their seven-metre tall walls, fire, acoustic and robustness requirements. Another one of our innovative solutions was to introduce Glasroc H Rigidur board, as it meant less plywood could be used in these areas, helping to future-proof the space by giving it the flexibility to change and evolve over time.

To overcome the complexity of the fire protection between old and new steel work and integrated partition systems, we introduced Glasroc F FireCase to help keep the encasement dimensions to a minimum and reduce the requirement of metal framework, which provided the customer with time and cost savings.

The end result is a unique building that embraces its heritage, making sure all the new elements intertwine with the old.

Bold ambitions then, now and for the future

From when the building was first designed as the Herman Miller factory to the recent refurbishment that transformed it into part of Bath Spa University’s Locksbrook Campus, flexibility, collaboration and technical expertise have always been integral to this building’s success.

Thanks to our collective know-how and collaborative approach, we were able to specify the best solutions to meet the complex needs of this refurbishment project and build a better future for everyone

“Our role was to work closely with Wilmott Dixon and British Gypsum to ensure they had a compliant, quality install. We’ve fitted British Gypsum products for over 30 years and have a close working relationship with them. There were over 30,000 square metres of plasterboard used on site, 18 different metal types used to create the partitions, and some of the walls had six layers of plasterboard in order to meet the requirements within the frame of the Grade II listed building and in keeping with the features.”

Miles Radburn, Topfix Interiors

We care about building better.


Project name
Bath Spa University
Building type
Completion date
Commercial/Retrofit & Refurbishment