B&K Structures has delivered an innovative timber and steel structure for Cambridge Heath Road, a unique and forward-thinking commercial space that combines newbuild and existing elements to extraordinary effect.

A scheme described by architect Waugh Thistleton as ‘environmentally exemplary’, the Cambridge Heath Road scheme used pioneering construction methods to replace a derelict 1962 office block, with a modern workplace that will provide a flexible space to accommodate The Ethical Property Company’s 25 charity clients.

Environmental concerns – in particular reducing the building’s carbon footprint – were central to The Ethical Property Company’s brief. The remit also called for open communal spaces that would encourage the building’s eventual tenants to network and collaborate, and there was a strong emphasis on maximising the available space within the finished building.

B&K Structures’ reputation for delivering innovative structural solutions, which put sustainability at the heart of the methodology, made the company the ideal choice to deliver this scheme in partnership with long-term collaborator Waugh Thistleton, main contractor ARJ Construction, and structural engineers Ramboll, with Veretec as the executive architects. This was a uniquely complex project, requiring the blending of the original concrete block with newbuild and extension elements, all of which relied on B&K Structures’ use of offsite technology to succeed.

The company designed, supplied and installed a hybrid structure which blended structural steel, glulam and cross-laminated timber (CLT) to extend the full floorplate of the building to 50,000sq ft. Central to the design is a beautiful CLT-framed atrium which encourages co-working and a sense of community between the charities housed in the space.

B&K Structures was able to deliver and install the steel, CLT and glulam elements within a two-phase programme of just 44 weeks and if supplied in one single phase, the project delivery would have been a lot shorter. Offsite construction methods helped to speed up the build process significantly when compared with a traditional construction programme for a project this size.

What’s more, the use of lightweight steel in the structure allowed for open floor spaces, and large unsupported spans. This worked well as part of a hybrid solution, with steel and timber complementing each other to create a sustainable and economical alternative to 100% steel. In the case of Cambridge Heath Road, steel was blended with high-quality CLT panels and glulam to create expansive communal areas such as the central atrium.

According to Waugh Thistleton, as well as providing a new dynamic frontage onto Cambridge Heath Road, the extension to the front of the building will facilitate the passive regulation of noise, heating, sunlight and ventilation. This in turn helps reduce the running costs for the building by decreasing the use of artificial light and heating. The impressive building is now fully operational and The Ethical Property Company’s clients have already taken up their space within the building.

Commenting on the finished project, Nick Forster, Director of Special Projects at The Ethical Property Company, says: “Ethical Property has had a great experience working with B&K Structures, Waugh Thistleton and ARJ Construction. The end result is a stunning building and a great place for our tenants to carry out their work to achieve social change.”

B&K Structures’ Head of Marketing, Wayne Yeomans, added: “Cambridge Heath Road encapsulates the benefits that a hybrid steel and timber structure, and offsite construction methods, can bring to commercial projects. We were able to create space, minimise the project’s carbon footprint, and deliver the finished structure within a tight time-frame to ensure that the building achieved everything the Ethical Property Company called for in the original brief. This is a truly impressive commercial building and is the perfect showcase for what can be achieved when sustainable construction is put at the top of the agenda.”

The B&K Structures’ approach delivers many benefits. The use of sustainably sourced timber and offsite manufacturing methods reduces the weight of superstructures, aids foundation designs, limits the number of people required for on-site operations and minimises the number of deliveries to site. And the use of CLT as a sustainable alternative to concrete drastically lowers the project’s carbon footprint. For any commercial project, cost, sustainability and return on investment are high on the agenda: that’s what makes a hybrid structure such an appealing solution for projects like Cambridge Heath Road.

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