Ebbw Vale gets innovative
Once a thriving industrial community, the decline of the steel and coal industries in the 20th century saw the last of Ebbw Vale’s longstanding steelworks demolished in 2003. However, rising phoenix-like from the ashes, Ebbw Vale is being granted a new lease of life following completion of the second phase of a state-of-the-art development – the Ebbw Vale Innovation Centre (EVIC) – which is now playing a key role in driving the economic regeneration of the town.
The brainchild of UK Steel Enterprise
The brainchild of UK Steel Enterprise – a Tata Steel subsidiary providing small and medium enterprises with support through provision of finance and premises – the Ebbw Vale Innovation Centre (EVIC) was originally conceived to provide 933m2 of workshop space and 1,118m2 of office space at a cost of £3 million. Built by construction company Midas, the high specification building was designed to attract a wide range of business activities, with flexible rents intended to appeal to start-up businesses in the region.
Having been originally developed in 2004, occupancy levels reached 100 per cent; clearly the design brief had been successful in meeting the needs of local businesses. Subsequent demand for premises offering new, innovative office space led to UK Steel Enterprise commissioning the original architects, P+HS Architects, working with construction company Stradform, to double the size of the development with a second phase.
Officially opened in July 2010, EVIC II has been enhanced to provide 1,260m2 of workshop space, 2,329m2 of office space and a home for almost 400 jobs. This second phase cost £4.1 million to construct and was made possible with almost £1.7 million of Convergence Funding through the Welsh Assembly Government and the European Regional Development Fund, with UK Steel Enterprise investing the balance. This brings a total investment in the two phases of EVIC to £7.1 million in the former steel town.
Incorporating a full communications suite, conference rooms and boardroom, the practical requirements of a multi-functional building were vital in producing a working environment for a number of business needs. As an added incentive, a fitness centre and sauna were included in the design.
Due to the demanding design requirements, the products specified in the construction of the building had to offer design flexibility if the brief to deliver a modern and striking building without compromising on performance were to be met.
P+HS Architects instructed Tata Steel to supply the pre-finished steel for the building’s roof and external elliptical feature column casings in Colorcoat HPS200 Ultra® . The second phase followed the principles of the original scheme design brief, with the added challenge of requiring that the extension worked harmoniously with the existing building.
Injecting the building with a strong visual identity meant the colour selection was a key requirement for success. Delivering twice the colour and gloss retention of standard plastisols, Colorcoat HPS200 Ultra®’s colour range provides architects with a wide choice in colour palette.
For EVIC II, P+HS Architects specified 900m2 of Colorcoat HPS200 Ultra® in Sirius and 1,500m2 of the same product in goosewing grey. The pre-finished steel includes a metallic layer, Galvalloy® – a special mix of 95 per cent zinc and 5 per cent aluminium – which protects the roof from corrosion without leaving the cut edges vulnerable to edge peel – a fault common with purely zinc based metallic coatings.
Recognised by the industry for its durability, the additional specification by the architects of the Confidex® Guarantee, which renders Colorcoat HPS200 Ultra® a inspection and maintenance free for 40 years, provided the building owner with additional peace of mind.
Colorcoat HPS200 Ultra®
Colorcoat HPS200 Ultra® also boasts an impressive sustainability record which further heightened its appeal to the architects for EVIC II. Designed to minimise the environmental impacts over its whole life from raw materials through to manufacture – all traces of fire retardants and heavy metals have been removed, Colorcoat HPS200 Ultra® is also fully recyclable.
These important factors have contributed to the appeal and success of the development, cementing P+HS Architects’ relationship with UK Steel Enterprise and resulting in their commission to design a number of other Innovation Centres across the country.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme
Thirty-five years ago Tata Steel adopted a central Corporate Social Responsibility programme, tasking UK Steel Enterprise with the responsibility of helping the economic regeneration of communities affected by changes in the steel industry. During this period, the subsidiary has helped grow over 4,500 businesses, creating nearly 70,000 jobs and investing £72 million in former steel areas. EVIC II is a shining example of the success of this project; a building that has all the promise to stand the test of time.