Offices in the refurbished farm buildings have many eco-friendly features.
'Green grows the business' - this is a sentiment echoed wholeheartedly by Adrian MacLaughlin, owner of Dunston Business Village. In the space of just six years he has turned a cluster of redundant farm buildings on the outskirts of Stafford into a thriving community of nearly 60 businesses and over 300 people, while creating an attractive working environment that strives to minimize its ecological impact.
This is the ethos behind the venture, and one of the prime reasons for its success according to Adrian. As testament to that success, a string of accolades adorn the walls of his office, including runner-up in the West Midlands Regeneration Project of the Decade!
"People like coming here, which helps our tenants to retain their staff, and to impress their clients, both of which help businesses to succeed," says Adrian MacLoughlin, owner of Dunston Business Village
Going round the 5-acre site it is easy to see why the owner is so proud. The former cowsheds and barns have been tastefully adapted to their new role as office spaces, grouped around five stone-flagged courtyards with fountains. Old brick and stone buildings have been renovated, and the former steel-framed farm sheds given a radical makeover and transformed into multi-level flexible spaces with plenty of glass and natural light.
Office interiors benefit from smart lighting systems with ambient light sensing. These automatically adjust the level of artificial lighting as ambient light changes in intensity, and also turn off lights when spaces are unoccupied. Further savings on energy bills are made by switching to a night circuit when the last person leaves an office at the end of the day. This turns off non-vital equipment such as computer monitors and printers, leaving only essential items powered up.
Inside and out, the larger office 'barns' show no evidence of their origins as open-sided farm buildings.
Outside security lighting uses low-energy LED bulbs. And all electricity on the site comes from Green Energy UK, a low-carbon supplier. Owner Adrian is hoping that in future the site will generate its own renewable electricity, but is still deciding on the best options from the available technologies.
The courtyard planters are supplied with rainwater harvested from one of the larger buildings and gravity fed throughout the site to keep the plants fresh. The local wildlife is also catered for by numerous bird boxes and feeders. Waste from the offices is sorted at source into paper, card, plastic, metal, etc. and placed in the appropriate wheelie bins for recycling.
Exterior of an office 'barn'. Former telegraph poles act as fence posts alongside the parking area, which is laid with recycled stone chips
Steps have been taken to encourage sustainable travel, with cycle racks provided and shower facilities in the offices. The site is also on a bus route just outside on the A449, providing links to Stafford, Penkridge, Wolverhampton, Cannock and Walsall, and their various rail connections.
Creating the right environment has obviously made good commercial sense for Adrian. Virtually all units are let, bucking the recent economic downturn. He is very much a hands-on developer whose attention to detail and personal vision have proved invaluable. But in choosing a location such as Dunston, a business not only enjoys appealing surroundings, but also is well placed to fulfil a range of sustainability criteria that will be increasingly important in future, and could mean the difference between winning a contract or not - 'sustainability' is fast becoming the watchword for successful enterprises, as Adrian can attest!