Wearside architects and engineering firm BDN is utilising its skillset to make the best of a stunning redesign of a historic Sunderland school.

And the investment in the former Simpson Street School will help the company double its turnover as it builds on ambitious expansion plans.

Building Design Northern (BDN) has made the move from Durham to its newly renovated HQ, close to Riverside Sunderland, which will deliver added capacity for expansion, having already grown its headcount by nine in the last 12 months.

The company, which was bought out by managing director Richard Marsden in 2019, is leading the wider redevelopment of the former school building, which was originally constructed in 1883.

The £1m renovation project has created a new headquarters for the firm with space for up to 30 people, and will also see eight loft apartments developed for rent in a separate part of the building during 2021.

BDN recently restructured its team to support its ongoing growth, with five new directors appointed to steer the business.

The company has put in place directors of finance, civil engineering, structural engineering, architecture and conservation, all of whom have been promoted by the firm.

Richard Marsden, who worked at BDN for 13 years before completing a management buy-out and becoming sole shareholder two years ago, said: “We’re a really ambitious practice, with a dynamic team that is establishing BDN as a forward-thinking firm with the ability to support a broad range of projects.

“Our relocation to our own headquarters in Sunderland, along with a range of changes to the management structure of the business, will stand us in good stead to accelerate our growth, and to bolster our own development capabilities, which is an increasingly important part of our business.”

BDN – which also has an office and team in the Lake District – completed the purchase of its new head office from Sunderland City Council last year.

It has since undertaken a comprehensive programme of improvements that have transformed the derelict space into a sympathetically restored office, that is packed with original features but fully modernised to deliver a sustainable, stylish workplace.

The restoration of Simpson Street School is the latest in a long line of projects that the firm is involved in Sunderland, having worked on designs and engineering for Spire View, Ashburne House and the Walled Garden Roker, and has recently been commissioned to work on the redesign of Mackie’s Corner.

BDN was recently appointed by Sunderland City Council to support a £59m housing development programme across the city.

The move to Sunderland is a boost for the city, bringing 19 high-value jobs to the area, and welcome investment into the former school building, which had stood empty for more than a decade and at one point looked poised for demolition after a fire swept through it.

Peter McIntyre, executive director of city development, said: “We’re delighted to see BDN make the move to Sunderland as part of their ambitious expansion plans.”


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