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Updating a Grade 2 listed building to create a new home for Gwent's public records



HIGHLIGHTS

  • Part of Ebbw Vale's regeneration
  • New archive facility containing two strong rooms to house documents
  • Contains Wales’ first 4D cinema
  • Provides 10km of state of the art storage space
  • High levels of air-tightness led to reduced running costs

This was part of Blaenau Gwent’s regeneration of the steelworks in Ebbw Vale and saw our Cardiff team refurbish a Grade 2 listed former office to create public spaces and a new home for Gwent Records. Other projects carried out here included a school and leisure centre.

As well as Wales’ first 4D cinema, the office building gave new life to a property that is over a 100 years old and was one of Europe’s first concrete framed buildings.

Scope and challenges

The extensive remedial works we devered included lime plastering, terrazzo work, repair and replacement of doors, mouldings, stonework and tiling.

The toughest challenge of changes that had to be undertaken during the refurbishment: over 400 as a result of design changes and weekly visits from the conservation architect.

Blaenau Gwent received a CADW grant to lime plaster the whole of the existing building very early on in the contract. This changed the scope of works significantly with existing cement based plaster removed and replaced with lime plaster. This also meant all skirtings, dado and picture rails, covingshad to be removed, stored and replaced.

The team worked on weekly issued instructions so had to manage regular changes in programme, procurement of materials and instructions to subcontractors. Communication with the architect and the supply chain, together with keeping a firm hand on things financially required a lot of management resource.

Relationships and localism

As with all WIllmott Dixon projects, our success is dependent o the quality of relationship with all the team, especially the client. Local employment was also important, as well as sourcing subcontractors and materials locally, so the focus was on using local people who had been out of work to carry out labour intensive tasks such as hacking off plaster and lifting floors; they people were employed directly and thrived with the opportunity.

Angharad Collins, general offices manager:

"The project had many challenges and with a grade II Listed Building, many unknowns. Willmott Dixon was
proactive and had a brilliant team who went beyond the call of duty, particularly on community engagement, with innovative ideas about how the community could be involved in the building project."

Value

One area we helped was finding savings of £80k. This was achieved through workshops with our supply chain and ideas like replacing the specified roofing and cladding system with a product supplied by Cardiff firm Euroclad. As well as saving money, this solution meant that we could use a more local supplier and the end result looks fantastic. We also brought in our supply chain to provide a more cost effective green roof than the one specified.

Sustainability

On the new build, we had challenging air tightness standards to meet - 5.0m3/hr/m2 for the whole of the new build and 0.1m3/hr/m2 for the strong rooms. We introduced a check list for the cladding. We did an early air test on the strong rooms before we installed the huge racking systems. The tests identified where we had problems with the details which the architect could then rectify and meant that we achieved the required air tightness values.