William Smith Building (WSB), British Geological Survey, Keyworth

William Smith Building

The William Smith Building (WSB) is the newest addition to the British Geological Survey (BGS) headquarters in Nottingham. At 3000m², the WSB is the largest wooden-framed open-plan office building in the UK .

The WSB was built to the highest environmental standards, within the two-year timescale and just under the £7m budget. It incorporates cedar and terracotta cladding, sheep’s wool insulation, under-floor heating and an atrium covered with the same plastic panels used in the Eden Project domes, Cornwall, UK.

Official opening

The construction project started in December 2007, staff occupied the building in May 2009 and it was opened by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal on 25 June 2009. Princess Anne first visited the site on 23 June 1970 when she officially opened Mary Ward College (a teacher training college) which occupied the site before it was taken over by the BGS in 1976.

Environmental excellence

William Smith Building stairway

George Bowick, the previous BGS site manager, said: “The William Smith Building is built to meet the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method BREEAM) ‘Excellent’ rating. This will be the first large-scale open plan office in the UK to use a timber frame along with a Termodeck under-floor heating system.

The WSB incorporates the following ‘green’ features:

  • ETFE (Ethylene tetra fluoro ethylene) panels — designed for the space industry. A lightweight alternative to glass; resistant to UV light and atmospheric pollution
  • terracotta rainscreen cladding — provides excellent acoustic and thermal insulation; with low maintenance requirements
  • cedar cladding — durable, naturally resistant to weathering and provides excellent thermal insulation
  • Termodeck heating and cooling system — uses air flowing through hollow concrete structural slabs to maintain ideal room temperature. Fresh air is heated in the winter and cooled in the summer by using the thermal mass of the building
  • sheep’s wool insulation — a natural breathable fibre made from renewable sources that helps to keep buildings warm in the winter and cool in the summer

William Smith ‘Father of English geology’

In 1801, William Smith drew a rough sketch of what would become "The Map that Changed the World" and was credited with creating the first geological map of England and Wales with part of Scotland, which was published in 1815 – see William Smith's 1815 Map.


View pictures and descriptions of the different rocks on display in the atrium at the William Smith Building gallery of rock types

Atrium Building stones

For further information about the William Smith Building

Contact Gaynor Delaney