Completed in early 2023, The Paper Exchange is a state-of-the-art office building in the heart of Belfast’s central business district, featuring 11-storeys and a ground floor retail space. Arup provided a range of consulting and engineering services to generate a brand new sustainable office space in one of the world’s top destinations for financial technology investments. 

Belfast has a storied connection with the paper making industry, as stock from the mill on Joy Street travelled to the warehouses on Chichester and Gloucester Street. Each papermaker in their respective warehouse would ensure their stock was of the highest quality to produce newspapers and the finest artwork. The craft was commonly referred to as ‘the paper exchange’, and this skill is embodied in Wirefox’s latest project. 

Collaborative working

Our commitment to The Paper Exchange consisted of several stages of design and advisory roles. Firstly, our project team worked closely with the Wirefox and TODD Architects to engineer a sustainable design from the concept stage through to the technical stage. During the concept stage, the project team coordinated with TODD Architects to ensure the look and feel of the building correlated with Wirefox’s vision, brief, and budget. This led to the spatial coordination phase, where focus turned to providing the most accurate information possible for the planning application. 

We provided all of the information that was required to manufacture and construct the building, such as architectural and engineering designs, as well as specifications. During each stage there were comprehensive BREEAM assessments that ensured the building would set a new standard for sustainable structures within the area. From this point onwards, we took on a technical advisor role in the project’s construction, handover, and closeout stages, with monthly site visits to report on progress. This guaranteed that the BREEAM assessments were being met to a high standard and that our project would be delivered according to the brief. 

A sustainable urban solution

Initially challenges were faced with Northern Ireland Water (NIW) over the surface run-off storage requirements, as the building’s calculated 140m3 volume would have been too large to fit in the existing basement. The required volume would have forced our project team to go with a more traditional approach: a concrete tank built in-situ or cellular storage made from plastic. These solutions, along with planning attempts by the team, neither fulfilled the BREEAM criteria nor hit the sustainability goals for the project. Recognising this, we collaborated with NIW to agree on a 71 m3 reduced surface water attenuation volume requirement, enabling our team to contain the volume within the building’s footprint, and reach a sustainable solution. 

The pre-existing concrete beams within the basement were sprayed with an impermeable membrane and utilised to create the walls of the water run-off tank. This method ensured an overall reduced carbon footprint as no parts had to be manufactured offsite, transported, and installed. As a result of this sustainable innovation, the overall construction cost for the project was also reduced

Prioritising digital connectivity

The Paper Exchange is geared towards visionary businesses that need the best electrical and digital connectivity Belfast has to offer. Our team implemented an energy-efficient LED lighting system throughout the 11-storey building, meaning lower energy consumption, lower bills for the consumer, and less demand on the natural resources used to power our energy grid. In addition to the LEDs, our team also installed lighting control panels which allowed for presence detection and daylight dimming to further reduce its operational carbon.  

Digital connectivity was integral to the fit out of the building’s eighth floor, as demonstrated by the inclusion of 1 grommet per 8m2. A grommet is a useful floor accessory designed for placing and running wires and cables under the floor system, while also sealing small openings for airflow blocking. This flexible IT solution will enable the eventual tenant to have complete control over the underfloor cabling and desk layout of the office, with no impact on connectivity.