Timber frame pods for historic Shell Store redevelopment

The Shell Store on Hereford’s Rotherwas Industrial Estate lay derelict for more than 50 years. As an ‘enterprise zone’, Skylon Park was keen to bring the building back into productive economic use.  Following a £7.3 million redevelopment, The Shell Store is newly refurbished into a modern business incubation and innovation centre

2,500 sq. metres of lettable business space has been created within the existing building footprint, housed within insulated timber frame pods to retain much of the original factory, including its iconic steel roof structure.  Having played a considerable role in WWI and WWII, the building was of historical merit and considered worthy of retention.

Timber frame specialist, Taylor Lane was tasked with delivering seven single storey pods, each differing in shape, size and layout.  The company worked closely with main contractor, Barnwood Construction.Timber frame construction was specified due to its sustainability and environmental qualities, including carbon capture and storage, alongside speed of construction, flexibility, cost and health and safety.

“Once it had been decided that the building was worthy of retention,” says Mike Court, director of Quattro Design Architects, “the primary challenge was the limited clearance between the concrete slab to the underside of the steel frame.  This heavily dictated the approach to design, servicing, and buildability of the interior spaces.

“The strategy considered a variety of approaches however, the most appropriate was the insertion of a timber frame within the open plan structure. Early subcontractor engagement was crucial, enabling value for money and buildable solutions to be tried and tested in mock-ups. With the primary construction material being the timber frame, Taylor Lane was a key partner in this approach.”

The timber frame design had to work inside a building, allow for curved walls and meet the structural, thermal, fire, acoustic and airtight criteria.  Building within a building also proved challenging on many fronts, including low ceilings; lifting heavy panels without cranes; distributing materials and working in a confined area with other trades.

To aid both the design and build process, the timber frame panels were designed as small as possible.  This helped create the curved walls and made the panels more manageable, which was critical given the restricted access. Taylor Lane employed top-hung Posi-Joists to achieve the long spanning roofs of each pod.  With any large openings or full-height glazing, steel beams were installed to afford flexibility. The timber pods are highly insulated and airtight, achieving a U-value of 0.22 w/m2K, essentially acting as external envelopes within the building.

“The approach to timber frame resulted in higher levels of energy efficiency, lower carbon emissions and lower maintenance costs. At the same time, the timber frame increased The Shell Store’s adaptability, durability, and resilience,” concludes Mike.

The Shell Store was officially opened by Robert Jenrick, former Secretary of State Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), earlier this summer. Taylor Lane is shortlisted with The Shell Store in the Commercial Project of the Year category at the Structural Timber Awards 2021.  The winner will be announced on 6th October.

L-R: Jesse Norman, Hereford MP; Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, former Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government;  and Councillor David Hitchiner, Herefordshire Council leader.

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