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Sod Cutting Cermony for New Department Headquarters 12 December 2008

Work on the new Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Headquarters is underway, with Minister for Agriculture Phil Gawne MHK performing the official sod-cutting last week (4th December).

Tynwald approval for the eco-building was granted in November and the £5.3 million scheme is anticipated to be completed and operational by April 2010. Auldyn Construction is the main contractor for the project.

A new headquarters is required to centralise the six divisions which are currently based at various locations across the Island. The site adjacent to the existing Forestry Division offices on Hope Road, St John's was chosen as the site for the new development. Ashley Pettit Architects were chosen and tasked with designing a building which would be sensitive to its rural location.

The design of the building has been driven by the location and current sustainable design for offices in the UK. The building has been designed to minimise the impact on the environment by maximising the use of natural ventilation and lighting.

The main volume of the building is a two storey, barrel vault roofed structure designed to be reminiscent of an agricultural barn which is top lit by a central atrium. The exposed external structure is evocative of the many trees surrounding the immediate area. It is accompanied by a one storey section of building on the west side which will have a fluid edge and has been designed to allow for the existing trees and plant life to remain. The roof of this section of the building will be covered with a sedum blanket which filters out pollutants from the air, absorbs carbon dioxide and provides a productive ecological habitat.

The building will be constructed mainly from natural materials so that it appears to blend into the surrounding landscape. It will also be raised on stilts to protect it from any flood risk associated with the nearby river.

Minister for Agriculture, Phil Gawne MHK, performed the official sod-cutting on the site of the new Headquarters this morning and said: 'I would like to thank the whole team who have worked so hard to move this project on so quickly. I would also like to extend my thanks to Tynwald for the support received at the sitting last month when the project was approved.

'Importantly the new building will result in savings to the Manx taxpayer and a more efficient service to people using our services. The project really is ground-breaking for the Island and I am delighted to be able to officially open the site.'

The project is due for completion in April 2010.

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