Innovative Birmingham Community Facility takes RICS Regional Award

National disability charity Sense’s pioneering community facility in Selly Oak, Birmingham, has been declared one of the region’s most impressive construction schemes, winning the Community Benefit category in the RICS Awards 2018 for the West Midlands.

The Stepnell-built £14 million TouchBase Pears centre in Bristol Road, designed by Glenn Howells Architects, has been created for use by people with complex disabilities as well as local residents and businesses with facilities including a café, performance and exhibition space, business centre, meeting rooms for hire, a library and sensory garden.

The judges praised the purpose-built centre, which opened in autumn 2017, for providing specialist services for its disabled users, as well as resources for the extended community. They felt that Stepnell, Glenn Howells Architects and consultants Greenwood Projects had provided a space that was not only easy to get to by public transport and by car but was welcoming and made good use of natural daylight.

Construction director Bill Haynes says: “We’re delighted that this building’s positive contribution to the local community has been recognised by the RICS Awards. Our construction team did a great job delivering the new centre and in particular, coping with the restrictions imposed by a challenging location on the main Bristol Road, next to the Worcester and Birmingham canal. One of the most satisfying aspects of the project was the opportunity to work closely with Sense and the charity’s TouchBase champions – individuals with disabilities and their family members – inviting their feedback at various stages of the build on issues including accessibility, lighting and acoustics, allowing us to ensure that the finished building fully meets their needs.”

Glenn Howells, director, Glenn Howells Architects says: “We are delighted to have worked with Sense on this very special building for Birmingham and that the project has now been recognised with an RICS Regional Award. The project has given us the opportunity to work closely with potential users and the wider community to design a building that responds to the specific needs of people with hearing and visual impairment in terms of acoustics, lighting and wayfinding.”

As a category winner, the TouchBase Pears centre will now compete against other schemes from around the country at the RICS Awards 2018 Grand Final in London in November 2018.



  • Awards