Faced with two challenges in creating a new research and development facility – meeting an almost impossible construction deadline and ensuring minimal environmental impact – the ING Renault F1 Team turned to ABM Bridge Systems to win the race against time. The resulting, Computational Aerodynamics Research Centre at the team’s HQ in Enstone, Oxfordshire, has now been recognised by the Concrete Society as an outstanding example in the Concrete Performance category of the 2008 Concrete Society Awards. Designers for the project were Ridge Consultants using a pre-engineered bridge structure from ABM.
ABM holds the UK, Ireland and East European licence for Matière bridge systems that comprise a catalogue of pre-engineered components. These can produce countless arch configurations by combining different vaults and side walls. The adopted design for the ING Renault F1 Team provides an arched space of 16.4 metre span, with 6.5 metre height to apex and a total area of 1025 square metres. The structure comprises 25 rings of 2.5 metre depth and 75 cast elements, some weighing up to 32 tonnes.
Work began on site in the autumn of 2007. As site preparation and foundations were prepared ABM began casting and curing the segments. Site assembly began in December 2007 and was complete in just six working days, ahead of schedule.
The entire structure has been waterproofed, backfilled with graded materials, earthed over and landscaped. To complete the construction the main contractor has enclosed one end wall to create an area for the server farm. In the centre of the building is the exhibition area and auditorium space. A full height glass curtain wall at the far end of the structure gives a panoramic view of a wild life area, creating a stunning backdrop for the office area.
“The timing for the whole project has been driven by the demands of the racing programme. The ING Renault F1 Team is already introducing advanced aerodynamic features in its cars, which are a direct result of the CFD group, based in the new research centre. These designs are underpinned by calculations requiring a supercomputer for which a suitable building was required. Faced with environmental constraints at their rural site this had to be located beneath ground. In the end, given the time needed for fit out and commissioning of such a complex facility, only a pre-engineered buried structure would fit the bill,” explained ABM’s business development manager Mike Sanderson.
The natural concrete finish has been retained as a building feature. Standard vault designs were modified in the centre of the building to include opposing semi-circular cut-outs that create four light wells. An opening in the side wall has been created from which a curved tunnel provides a dramatic entrance to the building. A full size Renault F1 Team car is displayed in the exhibition area.
The building addresses sustainability needs in several respects. As a buried structure the visual impact is minimal. As planting matures it will soften the appearance further and planting will continue to act as a carbon sink. The avoidance of hard external surfaces moderates the impact of surface drainage on rivers. The buried structure will be less susceptible to summer heat gain and winter heat loss reducing the energy required for cooling and heating.
Inspiration for the underground structure came from Renault F1 Team’s architects, Ridge Property and Construction Consultants, working with consultant engineers, Scott Wilson. “This is the first project in the UK to use the Matière system to provide a working space. All other structures are associated with road, rail and waterway infrastructure. We think that this shows the flexibility and adaptability of the system and perfectly illustrates how these pre-engineered structures can significantly reduce construction time and meet environmental concerns,” Mike Sanderson concluded.
Mike Sanderson, Business Development Manager
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ABM Bridge Systems, Ollerton Road, Newark, Nottinghamshire, NG22 0PQ