Government, academia and business have come together to develop premises for start-up high-tech businesses in Plymouth. The alliance's first building, the Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre, provides light and airy research and production units for £639/m2

<b>At-a-glance guide</b>
Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre, Derriford, Plymouth

<b>Project</b> Flexibly serviced start-up accommodation for 34 high-tech businesses

<b>Client</b> Tamar Science Park

<b>Location</b> Tamar Science Park, Derriford, Plymouth

<b>Construction cost</b> £2 240 000 for gross internal floor area of 3120 m2. Unit cost of £639/m2 (excluding site works) is in the middle of the cost range for the building type

<b>Special design features</b> Naturally lit and ventilated spaces beneath distinctive arched roofs

<b>Cost and procurement constraints</b> Early start on site dictated by European funding led to a two-stage contract

<b>Form of contract </b> JCT80 with full quantities

<b>Contract period</b> 36 weeks

<b>Development concept</b>
In 1995, Plymouth City Council, the University of Plymouth and the regional training and enterprise council, Prosper, formed the Tamar Science Park company. Its objective was to develop facilities to foster the commercial exploitation of new ideas in science and technology. To this end, it acquired a 11.3 ha greenfield site in Plymouth next to Derriford Hospital, a few minutes from Plymouth City Airport.
The Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre, completed in January 1999, is one of the first buildings on the science park, and occupies a key location at its entrance. The centre has self-contained lettable units at preferential terms for start-up knowledge-based businesses.
The design team was appointed through an invited design competition. The design brief was later revised by management consultant Angle Technology, in response to market needs and the fiscal constraints imposed by the European Regional Development Fund, and the design was amended accordingly.

<b>Client's brief </b>
The centre consists of a range of flexibly serviced office, laboratory and workshop spaces. The centre also provides general business support from a permanent secretariat, a central reception, meeting rooms, conference facilities and a tenants' common room with limited catering facilities.
The accommodation consists of nine 30 m2 units, 16 60 m2 units and nine 90 m2 units. The brief stipulated that the design and configuration of the building should:

  • encourage the exchange of ideas among tenants
  • allow synergy of activities
  • provide a social environment for lively interactions
  • use technology and passive energy
  • permit internal flexibility
  • provide a high-quality environment in a cost-effective way
  • maximise lettable accommodation within the overall concept. 
  • <b>Site layout</b>
  • On a site that slopes from north to south, the building is oriented east-west along the contours of the site. It is planned as two parallel single-storey laboratory wings of unequal width with a linking entrance and reception. These three elements form a series of interconnected terraces stepping down the hillside. Short staircases and platform hoists link the entrance hall to the laboratory wings on either side. The open space between the wings has been landscaped as a garden with a sheltered terrace next to the entrance for alfresco dining in summer.
  • Vehicle access to the site is from a single entrance to the south. Disabled and visitor parking is provided next to the main entrance, and linked to it by a shallow ramp. Service vehicles are directed to a service zone at the northern perimeter. Staff parking for 100 cars is provided to the west in a series of landscaped terraces that step down the contours of the site.
  • <b>Architectural design </b>
  • The Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre was designed to provide a range of attractive research and production units. Arched roofs and large expanses of clear-glazed facades have produced light and airy spaces and distinctive architectural forms, which are unusual for a high-tech science park. As the first building in the Tamar Science Park, the centre sets an appropriate standard of design and quality, both internally and externally, for future phases.
  • Tenant spaces are naturally lit and ventilated through the external facade. Internal finishes have been picked to create a sense of quality and modernity, and require minimum maintenance.
  • It is appropriate that a project partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund uses components from Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy and the UK.
  • <b>Procurement</b>
  • The development timetable was dictated largely by the European Regional Development Fund, which provided 40% of development funding. The grant offer was conditional on the project being "fully committed" by 31 December 1996. This left just four months to design and procure the project, which was not enough time to invite competitive lump-sum tenders. However, it was agreed that the term "fully committed" could be deemed to mean commitment to a substantial enabling works contract.
  • A substructure package was prepared and let to a domestic subcontractor before the agreed deadline. It was let with a four-month lead-in that gave enough time for the design team to complete the full design. The remaining works were tendered traditionally using bills of quantities. The main contractor was appointed two weeks before the substructure work started on site, and the substructure subcontractor was novated immediately afterwards. This procedure left the client with a traditionally procured lump-sum contract.
  • <b>Cost commentary</b>
  • The building cost, at £639/m2 excluding site works, is reasonably economical, considering the quality of the finished product. It is in the middle of the cost range for laboratory workshops and medium-quality B1 buildings, which in 1997 typically ranged from £550/m2 to £745/m2.
  • Building costs were boosted by abnormal site features such as the steep slope and the rock substrata, which added about £25/m2 to substructure costs. On top of that, the locality is considered to be an aggressive marine environment, which led to additional costs for enhanced external finishes.
  • The initial budget was set at £2 240 000. The lowest tender was £12 000 below this figure. The client consequently increased the contract contingency sum from £40 000 to £52 000, allowing the contract sum to match the budget and the allocated grant funding. The contingency sum was spent during the course of the contract, with the agreed final account only £1800 above the original contract sum.
  • <b>Specification</b>
  • <b>Structure</b>
  • The internal planning of the building is set out on a 1.5 × 1.5 m module, offset 0.75 m from the structural grid to allow the main columns and beams to stand free of the enclosing walls. The primary superstructure comprises circular steel columns at 6 m intervals supporting arched roof beams of back-to-back rolled-steel channels in a range of spans to accommodate the different sizes and proportions of rooms required. The roof is a profiled structural steel deck spanning the beams and supporting an insulated standing-seam aluminium top sheet. The structural framing system is left exposed inside the building.
  • <b>External facades</b>
  • The main facades are formed from a proprietary composite timber and aluminium curtain-wall system from Velfac that has European pine sections with a clear lacquer internal finish. The curtain walling carries the aluminium-framed fenestration, which features fixed and opening windows with double glazing and insulated aluminium-faced infill panels. Louvred panels are also incorporated into the facade to cater for the future mechanical servicing needs of tenants. The end gable walls are finished in red facing brickwork that matches brickwork in adjacent buildings.
  • <b>Internal finishes</b>
  • All walls are relocatable steel-stud partitions finished in plasterboard, and all doors and joinery are in natural beech. This includes the furniture in the main entrance and the reception desk. Internally, the laboratory floors are finished in grey sheet PVC with a grey mix carpet tile in office and circulation areas.
  • <b>External paving</b>
  • This is in silver-grey precast concrete slabs supplied by Marshalls. Smooth silver-grey paving slabs continue the theme through the main entrance.
  • <b>Heating </b>
  • The building is heated by gas-fired low-temperature, hot-water, perimeter convector heaters positioned below the curtain-wall spandrel panels. In the entrance, where the windows are full-height, perimeter trench heating is used.
  • <b>Ventilation</b>
  • On the whole, ventilation is natural, with opening windows along the major facades. The deep-plan laboratories are provided with extract ventilation that discharges through the roof. Each structural bay of the building is provided with capped drainage connections and service inlet points to cater for future tenants' servicing needs, including extract flues, should fume cupboards be required.
  • <b>Solar control</b>
  • Heat gain and glare is minimised by deep eaves, overhangs and horizontal solar shading. High levels of natural light are provided by taking the glazing up to the soffit of the roof.
  • <b>Lighting </b>
  • Office and laboratory areas are artificially lit using custom-designed, suspended, category 2 luminaires featuring a 10% upward lighting component. Circular wall fittings with back lighting are installed in circulation areas.
  • <b>Cabling</b>
  • The M&E and telecoms plant room is located in the north wing next to the main entrance. A carefully co-ordinated services distribution network runs at high level in the circulation areas. The piped and wired services available to each lettable unit comprise gas, boosted-pressure cold water, low-temperature hot water, electrical power telecoms and data networks. Tenants can connect into these systems to suit their individual requirements.

At-a-glance guide

Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre, Derriford, Plymouth Project Flexibly serviced start-up accommodation for 34 high-tech businesses Client Tamar Science Park Location Tamar Science Park, Derriford, Plymouth Construction cost £2 240 000 for gross internal floor area of 3120 m2. Unit cost of £639/m2 (excluding site works) is in the middle of the cost range for the building type Special design features Naturally lit and ventilated spaces beneath distinctive arched roofs Cost and procurement constraints Early start on site dictated by European funding led to a two-stage contract Form of contract JCT80 with full quantities Contract period 36 weeks

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