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Letter: Repurposing Debenhams is Not a Practical Solution

Published on: 10 Apr, 2022
Updated on: 10 Apr, 2022

From: Joe Taylor

In response to: Climate and Heritage Are Reasons to ‘Rescue Debenhams Building’ Says National Campaign Group

There are many shining examples of 1960s British architecture, but the Debenhams building is not one of them.

It doesn’t evoke the feelings of awe and wonder one would expect from a “cathedral of commerce”, rather it risks becoming a monument to Guildford’s unwillingness to change.

I understand the calls for it to be repurposed for residential use, but did anyone from Guildford Conservative Association, Holy Trinity Action Group and the Guildford Society actually watch the developer consultation videos?

Early on it was established that the existing building cannot be repurposed for residential use as it wasn’t feasible to replace existing support columns. There were also additional concerns about the energy efficiency of the building which would contribute to a higher carbon footprint if it were to be repurposed.

The building in its current form will not allow public access to the riverside, it’s not very attractive and its construction poses significant obstacles to repurposing for energy-efficient residential use.

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test One Response to Letter: Repurposing Debenhams is Not a Practical Solution

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    April 14, 2022 at 3:33 pm

    Mr Joe Taylor has posed the question – “Did anyone from the Guildford Conservative Association, Holy Trinity Action Group and the Guildford Society actually watch the developer consultation videos?” Well, judging by the number of links posted by Guildford Society on consultation together with Native Land’s videos, I think most people who contribute to the discussion on this topic have seen these.

    However, Mr Taylor’s comment -“The building in its current form will not allow public access to the riverside” suggests to me that he had not read my comments on the original article. Yes, access to the riverside could be made available by removing the ground floor rear walls of the building.

    The energy efficiency of deep floor space, mostly being away from outside walls, would be advantageous for heat conservation. In my proposal, both the ground floor and the first-floor space would remain as they are but only with new internal partitions. So their energy efficiency would be higher than similar space occupied by the proposed design of the apartments.

    Of course, the design has to be checked against what capacities are available for the existing columns.

    Shop floors were designed for much higher live loading than residential floor loading. So, the removal of floor space to create the atrium-like areas would allow this reduction of loading to the columns to cater for loading from additional floors. Additional supporting columns could be erected if necessary.

    The second floor with parts of its roof removed to let in light and fresh air would provide small pockets for communal use by the apartment holders. My proposal for new floors on top could be built to comply with all current requirements of insulation and energy efficiency measures.

    These floors could have their own open terraces created as setbacks serving the dual purpose of providing private outside space and reducing the impact of height.

    Environmentally, re-purposing is an attractive proposition since carbon already expended in constructing the building and that to be used for demolition, carting away the debris, bringing in new materials – all would be saved. Also, disruption to traffic, noise and dust from the demolition polluting the environment for several months would be avoided.

    If re-purposing without wholesale demolition provides a reasonable return for Native Land, I would expect them to review their proposition.

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