A historic builders’ merchant is planning to open a new design centre in Birmingham.
EH Smith has lodged plans to renovate a derelict warehouse in the city’s Digbeth district to create a new hub for the construction industry.
It is eyeing a site at 312-314 Bradford Street currently occupied by a 20th-century warehouse.
The family-owned company wants to carry out a wholesale renovation of the vacant building which was once a tool-making workshop for the Birmingham Machine Tool Rebuilding Co.
The proposed new design centre and construction hub will have showroom space, workshops, displays of more than 1,000 brick types along with ceramics, terracotta, stone and masonry support systems.
The design centre will also contain mock-ups to demonstrate modern methods of construction and education and demonstration areas about how materials can be used in fields such as sustainability, fire safety and water conservation.
A newly submitted planning application proposes to retain and restore original features of the building such as its pitched roof and arched gateway alongside an original eight-tonne crane and supporting structure which will become a focal feature within the shed.
Mezzanines floors will provide flexible workspace for EH Smith staff and a new conference room on the second floor will provide space for larger meetings and collaborations.
EH Smith is working with Digbeth-based architecture practice Howells on the scheme and its design is inspired by its London Design Centre which opened in 2020.
Now headquartered in Shirley, EH Smith was founded in 1922 in Small Heath, Birmingham, and employs 450 staff and trades from 13 locations, the majority of which are in the Midlands.
Executive director John Cave said:
“I’m delighted to be able to share the plans we’ve developed with Howells for our new design centre in Digbeth.
“While emulating our Clerkenwell Design Centre in London, it will be distinctively Birmingham, offering a collaborative space for architects, contractors, clients, designers and construction professionals and those with an interest in the city to gain inspiration, share ideas and be educated on the latest materials.
Birmingham is our home town, the first branch of EH Smith opened a short distance from here 100 years ago. With the opening of this new facility, we’re excited to enhance our position as a leading player in the construction materials industry.”
Howells’ founder and partner Glenn Howells added:
“We are very pleased to be collaborating with EH Smith to create its new design centre next to our own offices in Digbeth.
“I am sure this new facility will be a huge success in not only showcasing the amazing range of construction products provided by EH Smith but also as a hub that will bring together designers, manufacturers and developers to explore better ways to create buildings that are beautiful and sustainable.
“I believe the new design centre will soon be seen as a national beacon of how we can achieve the best construction solutions through genuine collaboration.”