Boiler House, HUB’s second development in the Old Vinyl Factory regeneration, was designed by award-winning architecture practice, Studio Egret West. The project provides 54 environmentally-conscious homes, engineered to ensure a lower carbon footprint and providing residents with generous balconies, communal roof gardens and allotments.

Concept

The client aspired to demonstrate successful offsite manufacture combined with low carbon technology to create a sustainable development that also complimented the site’s proud industrial history. The original concept was for an angular building referencing the unusual form of the steel and timber steam chimneys that once stood here, providing heat and power to the Old Vinyl Factory. A traditional concrete frame was quickly disregarded in favour of more sustainable and prefabricated structural solutions. The development’s stainless steel-clad walls and bright orange staircase echo the industrial aesthetic of its predecessor. Underneath the striking façade, a cross-laminated timber frame provides the building with a range of environmental and thermal benefits as well as a raking structure to be formed for the external walls.

Design

The design demonstrates that using cross-laminated timber technology offers significant benefits in delivering sustainable housing quickly whist offering the opportunity for innovative architecture. Its aim was to minimise the development’s carbon footprint, and using the cross-laminated timber contributed substantially to this; one tonne of concrete releases an equivalent of one tonne of CO2, whereas each tonne of cross-laminated timber captures 2.5 tonnes of CO2, resulting in a very sustainable building.

Using a lightweight material for the building’s frame allowed for an efficient and optimised foundation design, facilitating a change from a piled solution to a raft foundation. This provided a substantial reduction in the amount of concrete required, subsequently a substantial cost saving to the client, and a reduction of the programme by several weeks.

By designing for off-site manufacture costs were controlled, quality improved and time on site reduced. Sophisticated and effective computer modelling was used to communicate throughout, from manufacture to construction, all the while maintaining precision and quality.

Procurement

Initial cost estimates suggested that the cross-laminated timber route was going to be more expensive. However, when HUB tested this with cross-laminated timber specialists it became clear that choosing this approach would be £170k cheaper and 12 weeks quicker to construct than an equivalent concrete frame. A collaborative approach between client, contractor and Eurban as cross-laminated timber specialist was adopted in order to mitigate risks, control costs, and maximise the time and quality benefits. The timber was sourced from certified sustainable forests and all waste from manufacture was recycled or used to generate power for the machinery.

Construction

Cross-laminated timber construction is a fast, efficient and safe way to deliver high-quality residential buildings with minimal disruption to neighbouring property causing less noise, dust and waste on site compared to other traditional construction methods. It reduces both the number of deliveries and time required to construct the frame. Offsite manufacturing allowed timber panels to arrive to site with builders work penetrations already incorporated, allowing the building services to be installed quickly and efficiently. Many of the internal walls were delivered to site fully formed. With an on-site period of just 7 weeks and a total of just 35 material deliveries for the cross-laminated timber superstructure we estimate that the superstructure was delivered 25% faster and with 85% less traffic pollution than would have been the case with traditional construction. In addition, we have estimated the carbon storage and substitution off-set the first 30 years of operation.

Outcome

Boiler House is positioned on a site that was previously underdeveloped and predominantly vacant, housing a series of derelict buildings. This site is situated in an area undergoing substantial regeneration, previously renowned for industrial works.

Further to achieving a visually pleasing design the project also contributes to an improvement in social wellbeing and livelihood of the community. All homes are designed as Lifetime Homes, the majority significantly exceeding the National Described Space standards and 10% were designed as wheelchair accessible. Help to Buy was available for all units, giving young professionals and families an opportunity to buy a home in an architect-designed development in a rapidly evolving and well-connected part of west London.

Roof gardens feature allotments to encourage interaction between the residents, with seating, private nooks and open space. The public realm is covered in a biodiverse mix of planting, which assists in air quality management, rain water attenuation, thermal cooling and enabling habitation for wildlife.

Cross-laminated timber has good thermal and acoustic insulation values and is airtight when assembled, greatly reducing energy use in the building, and combined with the energy recovering ventilation and district heating system, running costs were substantially reduced. Timber also provides comfortable and healthy indoor environments that improve the wellbeing of occupants. Smart technologies were employed to limit internal water usage to 105 litres per person per day promoting a sustainable use of water.

The development demonstrates an appropriate use of offsite manufacture combined with sustainable design to deliver a low carbon building in the heart of a developing area with the assistance of a collaborative design team of architects, consultants and contractors.

Links:

Project team:

Whitby Wood – Engineer

Eurban – Timber Engineer

Hub – Developer

Architects – Stride Treglown & Studio Egret West

Main Contractor – Henry Construction

 

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