The Gramophone Works has earned wide public and professional acclaim in converting a large post-industrial site, presenting numerous logistical and technical challenges, into a striking new landmark commercial development.
Using engineered timber, the project offers flexible business and employment opportunities for local people, and has been shortlisted for many prestigious industry awards
Situated in the Kensal Rise district of North West London, The Gramophone Works' heritage as a record factory has strong resonance with the local community's tradition of diverse music genres. The vision for the developer, Resolution Property, was to respect both the location and the history of the building by resuing as much of the original structure as possible, while creating a vibrant new series of different sized studios or offices.
Pivotal to the redevelopment of the building was a package delivered by structural timber specialise B&K Structures, encompassing the supply and install of the engineered timber and structural steel elements, to enable the reconfiguration and extension of the usable spaces.
BKS worked in close collaboration with the developer's experienced team of consultants led by N1 based Studio RHE, with heyne Tillett Steel (HTS) as structural and civil engineers and Graham Construction appointed as the main contractor.
With a strong emphasis on sustainability underpinning the redevelopment, a major challenge for the project team was the client's desire to utilise substantial reinforced concrete elements from the original factory - cutting carbon, by avoiding disruptive demolition work, and conserving the industrial heritage within the completed refurbishment - in combination with a new lightweight engineered timber structure which could radically increase lettable space.
Working with established supply chain partners, Binderholz and Derix for the just-in-time delivery of the Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and glulam elements respectively, BKS liased closely with both Graham Construction and HTS on refining the design of the structure and the sequencing of its erection programme.
In particular, the concept of having much of the building's M&E services on view across the soffits, rather than concealed by suspended ceilings, led to the design harnessing a signficant advantage of CLT manufacture: with many of the CLT panels being routed in the factory, ready to take pipework and cabling, the result was a cleaner finish and reduced time on site.
This landmark commercial property comprises two distinct parts. The Studio contains 19,892 sq ft of industrial-style work spaces with resin floors, Crittall style metal framed fenestration and a timber canopy, along with feature staircases. The Dock's 64,132 sq ft is an expressed timber structure, with contemporary engineering solutions employed throughout to optimise the building's functionality as an attractive, healthy and sustainable workplace.
New brick and glazed facades have been added to all elevations, while other improvements include louvres for solar shading, planted green roofs and photovolatic solar panels, as well as LED lighting controlled by sensors. Both zones offer outdoor spaces in the form of terraces or canal-side dining areas, as well as cycle hubs for 130 bicycles.
The key solution decided upon collaboratively by B&K Structures, Studio RHE, and Heyene Tillett Steel was to construct a transfer deck above the existing concrete roof slab to ccarry four extra storeys, with a lightweight glulam frame and CLT floor units spanning between secondary beams. 10 metre tall CLT panels were used to create a new lift core, with bespoke connections to the exisitng RC cores. While mass timber is known for its speed of install, the use of a small, highly skilled team also proved a major benefit under COVID restrictions.
B&K Structures worked closely with HTS to design the exposed timber connections, which had to meet strict fire requirements whilst remaining aesthetically attractive. However, the most challenging connnections were those for the CLT shear walls, giving stability over the top four storeys within three isolated cores, which had to acheive a two-hour fire rating. Innovativel, screws at lap joints were staggered on both sides, ensuring sufficient capacity remains during a fire.
As a flexible and astutely future-proofed commercial property, The Gramophone Works has been designed and constructed to minimise its environmental impact, while trying to optimise comfort and amenity for its occupants.
Studio RHE began the sustainability process with a 'Fabric First' approach, which informed the use of engineered timber as a key material for its environmental benefits and the subsequent appointment of B&K Structures, as market leading structural timber specialists. The architect specified high performance fenestration coupled with solar shading, and CLT panels were able to ensure that first-rate insulation levels of the external envelope were supported by excellent standards of airtightness.
The use of CLT and glulam in the construction process has reduced the embodied carbon in the scheme in several ways. While the lightweight nature of CLT ensures that the existing structure could be retained as much as possible, without the need to use significant amounts of new materials, BKS and HTS' efficient design has also kept material use low. Additionally, timber has significantly lower carbon emissions than other traditional materials, and the CLT and glulam in The Gramophone Works has sequestered 1,292 tonnes of carbon and will have regrown in just six minutes and eighteen seconds.
Much consideration has also gone into underpinning health and wellbeing throughout the development, with outdoor spaces being provided from the canal-side dining areas to the rood terraces, and ample bike storage facilitating green travel. The use of low carbon building materials and efforts to create attractive, calming interiors, including the extensive use of exposed CLT elements, are further biophilic measures which will help generate positive experiences for those who occupy The Gramophone Works.
Additionally, the advanced building services package includes a photo-voltaic array and air source heat pumps to harness renewable energy, as well as mechanical ventilation with heat recovery to cut losses and ensure necessary air changes are acheived. There is also extensive monitoring and metering of energy consumption to help manage its use.
B&K Structures and its supply chain partners are fully committed to using timber and other materials from sustainable sources, primarily in northern Europe. For The Gramophone Works, 1,726m3 of glulam and CLT was required, all sourced and supplied with 100% PEFC chain of custody which has helped to deliver maximum points under MAT03 BREEAM.
It had originally been our intention to avoid the use of any strucutral steelwork, but in the end that proved impossible.
As a result, The Gramophone Works is a truly hybrid structure, where the retained reinforced concrete elements to the building provide some intermediate support - or bracing - to the engineered timber structure, while the structural steelwork has been inserted at the lower level to meet their own specific requirements.