The new corridors of power revealed

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A MAJOR new landmark right in the heart of the Capital has sprung to life with the opening of the city council's spectacular new headquarters.

The first workers have moved into the striking building next to Waverley Station, less than three years after construction began.

Hundreds of transport workers and planning officials in the authority's city development department were the first to get a taste of their new home.

Others due to move in over the next few months include housing, building standards, education and finance officials.

And members of the public are being directed to the new building if they wish to inspect planning applications.

The new 80 million building - which has been named Waverley Court after the neighbouring station - is already up and running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, despite only opening its doors on Monday.

Shaped like a giant letter E, and made mostly of concrete and glass, it has its main entrance on East Market Street.

Many of the offices enjoy spectacular views of landmarks like the Balmoral Hotel, while an atrium faces towards Calton Hill. The new building has replaced 20 run-down council offices around the city which are being sold off and are generating more than 44m.

Brian Fallon, the council's property management leader, said: "I'm delighted that this modern, innovative and sustainable building is now open to the public.

"Waverley Court will allow the council to bring together a significant number of staff under one roof and help us to operate much more effectively. It will complement the historic centre of Edinburgh's World Heritage Site and is a wonderful asset for the city."

The new building has been created on part of the former station car park at Waverley as part of a deal struck between the council, Network Rail and developers Morley Fund Management, under which the council has a long-lease agreement.

Designed by the Glasgow-based Building Design Partnership and built by the Edinburgh-based construction firm Miller, the building has already earned a number of awards, including property deal of the year at the Scottish Property Awards.

The 200,000 square-foot site will become home to some 1600 staff between now and the end of February, when the building is expected to be officially unveiled.

It is billed as one of Edinburgh's most eco-friendly buildings thanks to features like its rooftop solar panels, which will supply the heating for the building's cafe and restaurant, its grassed roofs, which will allow collected rainwater to be re-used to wash the city's streets and its recycling facilities throughout the offices.

Waverley Court can also be "comfort-cooled" during the summer thanks to a combination of chilled-beams and cool air being displaced through the building's striking atrium.

All staff that move in the building will now be working in open-plan offices, even the council's departmental directors, and workers are being ordered to keep desks clear so that they can be used by "hot-desking" colleagues. The building is also equipped with more than 40 meeting rooms.

Among the other facilities will be a gym, an exercise room, 16 showers, 180 bike spaces and 20 spaces for motorbikes, as well as 44 car parking spaces.

Also due to open within weeks as part of the development is a new 650-space underground car park to serve the railway station.

The creation of the new HQ is part of council's wider Fit for Future project, which also includes a redevelopment of the former regional council headquarters on George IV Bridge and a overhaul of the City Chambers.

Among the major council offices which are being disposed of are the old social work headquarters on Leith Walk and the India Buildings, on Victoria Street.

Councillor Fallon added: "We're providing much better value for taxpayers because the running costs of the old offices were huge. There is much less waste being produced now and we are very much encouraging staff to walk or cycle to the new HQ.

"We believe it's also going to play a major part in the regeneration of this area, along with the neighbouring Caltongate development. Local businesses are bound to notice a big difference from the council building being down here."

Gordon Kew, regional director of major projects at Miller, said: "We are very happy with the success of this project and are extremely proud of this new building.

"Sustainability has always been one of our key areas of focus, not only with the building itself but also throughout the construction process. We actually recycled 90 per cent of waste from the site, far exceeding our initial target of 25 per cent."

Jon Ashcroft, of Morley Fund Management, said: "This will be not just a landmark building in Edinburgh but also one of the most sustainable buildings in the capital."