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Polycarbonate wall panels from Rodeca have helped transform an old railway station.

Translucent internal partitions by Rodeca have helped a new, award-winning innovation centre in the shell of a Grade 1 listed old station building to achieve “phenomenal and measurable” results.

Some 390m2 of Rodeca's 40mm PC 2540-4 Kristall polycarbonate wall panels usually used for external cladding and roofing were specified by childs+sulzmann architects for The Engine Shed at the Old Station Building at Temple Meads in Bristol.

It was the practice's first use of Rodeca and architect Mike Cox said: “Our company had never used Rodeca materials before but due to the success on this project we will definitely be looking at using them on future projects.

“We had seen images of a project in Holland, by Ector Hoogstad Architecten, where a converted steel plant had used the material as internal partitions and were impressed with the aesthetic created.

“At The Engine Shed, the Rodeca cladding was an excellent product to use within the context of the listed building as the material could sit around the existing cast iron and timber structure whilst creating a striking visual contrast.”

The £2.2million Engine Shed is a new and unique collaborative space for entrepreneurs, innovators and start-up businesses. The Temple Meads terminus by the world-famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel now accommodates a new generation of innovative engineers, and will also provide a 3,000m2 home for the local enterprise partnership and a focus for inward investment into the city.

The polycarbonate Rodeca panels, which are fully recyclable and manufactured from up to 30% recycled material, were installed onto an aluminium grid over a month by specialist sub-contractors Tremlett & Turner for main contractor Rydon Construction as internal partitions within the original engine shed to separate office spaces from the entrance and public circulation areas.

As well as being 200 times tougher than glass, they can be over half as light (m2 of double-glazed 4mm glass + spacer bar + sealant at a total 22kg V a 60mm polycarbonate panel system of 8kg/m2), reducing the requirement, and associated costs, for large sections of additional steel to enable the building to bear the weight. 

They also perform to a high level thermally as they can be manufactured with U-values as low as 0.71-0.77 W/m²K as a single-wall construction and 0.36-0.43 W/m²K as a double-wall construction. As such, they can be used to allow natural daylight (with light transmission of up to 66%) into a building without compromising its thermal integrity. 

Mike Tremlett said: “The project was fairly straightforward although it was in a Conservation Area so the utmost care was required. The Rodeca panels performed very well for the visual effect that was required.”

The year-long build included the former GWR drawing office being converted to accommodate offices for high-tech start-up companies via Setsquared, the enterprise collaboration between the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter and Surrey.

Mike Cox said: “The project emerged from a unique partnership between academic institutions, local and national Government offices and the private sector. It is the first significant development in the city's Enterprise Zone which was recognised by Government as having the most potential for growth in the country.

“The results of this development have been phenomenal and measurable. The design allowed of 240 desk spaces of different types throughout the building. When work started on site less than 80 had been allocated. By the completion of the contract works, 30 weeks later, all the desks had been taken and a waiting list started.

“In addition, it was always the intention to offer a membership of The Engine Shed to anyone who might want to use the facilities for meetings, presentations, events and networking. Three months after opening, The Engine Shed has 2,500 members.”

He added: “The re-use of this quite exceptional listed building was an opportunity and a challenge. For decades we have as a society revered our built heritage and found it difficult to make the necessary alterations to such buildings, to bring them back into some kind of sustainable use. This project demonstrates that, even in the most sensitive of contexts, it is possible to occupy these magnificent structures.

“We wanted a material that was in keeping with the industrial nature of the space, which was lightweight, recyclable and transparent, while diffusing the natural light.”

He added: “The project has also attracted attention both nationally and internationally. There has been a constant stream of visitors from government departments to local schools. Within the first few weeks two cabinet ministers and several vice chancellors of other universities came to see for
themselves what has been achieved. 

“Already, the business incubator element of the project has been recognised and been awarded the Business Incubator Design award for the newly-opened Engine Shed by industry body UK Business Incubation.”

Bristol Mayor George Ferguson said: “The opening of The Engine Shed in record time demonstrates the innovation, ambition and collaborative working that exists here in the city. Once home to Brunel's innovative railway, Engine Shed is now in the heart of Bristol's Enterprise Zone and is home to creative and high-tech companies developing the technology of the future. It is also key node on the GigaBit Bristol broadband network connecting buildings in the city and developing the potential for new collaborative and creative working.”

Engine Shed director Nick Sturge added: ““We believe that Engine Shed, both as a building and a concept, is the right vehicle to demonstrate that the West of England is the best place to start or grow a low‐carbon, creative or high‐tech business. Its uniqueness and strength lies in how many people and organisations are under one roof - academics, entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, policy makers and business leaders. We like to think of it as a 'living marketing suite' for inward investors.”


(c) Craig Auckland / fotohaus

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