Digbeth Design Warehouse - Latest! - EH Smith

Digbeth Design Warehouse – Latest!


Digbeth-based architecture practice Howells has submitted a planning application to transform an early 20th-century warehouse in Digbeth, Birmingham into a new flagship Design Warehouse for EH Smith, an independent, family-owned builders merchants founded in 1922.

Date posted: 11 October 2023


Located at 312-314 Bradford Street, in close proximity to the Digbeth/ Deritend Conservation area and Birmingham city centre, the scheme will revitalise a vacant and derelict warehouse, formerly a toolmaking workshop, adjacent to Howells’ own headquarters. Howells’ proposal respects the building’s urban context and industrial heritage while proposing a cutting-edge design showroom for EH Smith, featuring an arresting glazed arched entrance leading to a lofty showroom space with contemporary steel and timber structural interventions, and adjoining workshops and workspaces.

The design is inspired by the success of EH Smith’s London Design Centre on St John Street, Clerkenwell, which opened in 2020. With over 1,000 brick types on display, an extensive range of ceramic and terracotta rainscreen and masonry support systems, natural stone cladding, and landscaping materials, the Birmingham centre will be a unique setting to assist architects, construction professionals, contractors and clients with material selection and specification.

The new Design Centre will also contain building-scale mock-ups to demonstrate Modern Methods of Construction, areas to educate and inform on material solutions to challenges posed by sustainability, fire safety and water conservation, and a hands-on demonstration area for clay block walling system Porotherm,

The original warehouse structure consists of a pitched-roof industrial shed, fronted by a large arched gateway flanked on either side by arched windows and a gable roof. Howells’ design proposal is to retain and restore these original architectural features, transforming the main, triple-height warehouse space into a showroom with fixed and flexible displays dedicated to the different ranges carried by EH Smith.

Within the proposals the white-washed interiors will be sand-blasted and the original floors restored to expose the underlying brick to complement the retail offer on display. Mezzanines on either side of the main space will provide flexible workspace for EH Smith, connecting staff and visitors with the activity below, while a new conference room on the second floor will provide space for larger meetings and collaborations.

Under the plans, the building’s existing side extension, built in 1920, will be converted to accommodate an entrance lobby, workshop, and presentation rooms, seamlessly connected to the main showroom space. To improve the scheme’s energy performance, the roof will be replaced with insulated panels, while retaining the original positioning of the roof lights that run the full length of the building. A new delivery entrance and fire escape will be created to the side of the building, with the front and the side elevations repaired and restored in a distinctive and sympathetic colour scheme.

The designs are due to be submitted for planning approval with Birmingham City Council.

Glenn Howells, Partner at Howells said: “We are very pleased to be collaborating with EH Smith to create their new design centre next to our own offices in Digbeth. I am sure that this new facility will be a huge success in not only showcasing the amazing range of construction products provided by EH Smith but also as a hub that will bring together designers, manufacturers and developers to explore better ways to create buildings that are beautiful and sustainable. I believe the new design centre will soon be seen as a national beacon of how we can achieve the best construction solutions through genuine collaboration.”

John Cave, Executive Director of EH Smith said: “I’m delighted to be able to share the plans we’ve developed with Howells for our new Design Centre in Digbeth. While emulating our Clerkenwell Design Centre, it will be distinctively Birmingham, offering a collaborative space for architects, contractors, clients, designers and construction professionals, and those  with an interest in the city to gain inspiration, share ideas, ad be educated on the latest materials. Birmingham is our home town – the first branch of EH Smith opened a short distance from here 100 years ago – and, with the opening this new facility, we’re excited to enhance our position as a leading player in the construction materials industry.”


For more press information and interview requests please contact Caro Communications (020 7713 9388):

Ellie Mackenzie – ellie@carocommunications.com
Danai Papadimitriou – danai@carocommunications.com

About Howells

Howells is an award-winning design studio founded and headquartered in Birmingham, driven by the ambition to enrich lives and positively transform places through its work. The practice constantly explores how to create long-term sustainable communities and a healthier future for our cities.

Howells has built a reputation for its collaborative approach, underpinned by clear, strategic and intelligent thinking. It has delivered innovative, high-quality buildings across all sectors, and its masterplans are transforming large parts of the UK’s biggest cities.


About EH Smith

EH Smith is a leading independent builders merchant, based in the West Midlands, with 13 merchant branches, three specification offices in the Midlands and the South East including St John Street in Central London, as well as a Kitchens and Bathrooms showroom in Henley-in-Arden.

The privately-owned, family run business, was founded in 1922, and enjoys a long heritage in Birmingham. With over 450 members of staff and an average length of service of over 11 years, EH Smith has strong roots in the construction industry with a hard-won reputation for supplying all heavyside building materials, with specialisms in Bricks, Civils & Facades.