Press release – Custom House, Harwich


A project to convert an office block formerly occupied by HM Customs and Excise into residential units in Dovercourt is progressing well.

The £2.7 million scheme is being carried out by Colchester-based Horizon Construction and when completed in August, Old Custom House on Main Road will have undergone a total refurbishment providing 34, one, two and three-bedroom apartments.

Built in the 1980s, the 3-storey building was occupied by HM Customs and Excise, where it was a fully functioning office, as well as being used as a holding building for seized contraband.

It was purchased by Essex-based Robertson Sands Eco Developments in 2018 and after their architects, Snug had undertaken a number of planning applications and a proportion of the technical design, work started on the conversion and refurbishment in Autumn last year.

Duncan Clark & Beckett are the Architects for the scheme and Structural Engineers, Superstructures were brought in to help with the design of some particularly challenging elements of the project, such as increasing the natural light to the central communal areas of the existing concrete building.

The solution is a large glass Lantern which has been installed on the roof and not only allows the sunlight to flood through the central atrium of the building, but also acts as a smoke vent in case of a fire.

Mark Hayward is Director at Superstructures and explained the complexity of the design. “The challenge for us was undertaking significant alterations to the existing concrete structure, but also utilising its robust construction in our favour wherever possible to limit structural intervention. The need to enhance the natural lighting had to be balanced with a design that could be installed prior to alterations and avoided the requirement for significant temporary works and didn’t compromise the existing structural integrity of the building.

“The finished result looks brilliant, with a larger central area of the existing concrete roof being cut and broken out and then 16 large planes of glass installed within a steel frame. Cut outs have also been included in the design on each floor which have frameless glass balustrades and allow the natural light from the new atrium to filter down through each floor to the ground level.”