Feb 04, 2021

Green light for Greenhill Works

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Our plans to create a business park for the future at Watford Business Park have now been unanimously approved.

Greenhill Works - the flagship scheme at Watford Business Park - aspires to transform a tired building stock, and create a business park for the future; one which is integrated with the city and the people that live there.

Working closely with Watford Council and the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Studio Egret West have received planning approval for Greenhill Works, which sits as the gateway site into Watford Business Park. A new approach to physical organisation, combined with a programme of uses which are not limited to inward facing operations, will help encourage the business park to become more connected with its context and create a welcoming place for the wider community. Designed with sustainability in mind, the buildings are constructed using a timber modular system and clad with a gradient of green hued panels, with nature brought into the site wherever possible.

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The site for Greenhill Works
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The site within the wider Watford Business Park


Watford Business Park is a major strategic industrial area of approximately 30 hectares, and employs in the region of 1,000 people. However, a significant proportion of the existing built stock is over 50 years old and deteriorating. Watford Borough Council and the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership are driving the regeneration of the site in recognition that without an innovative and forward thinking development, the business park will fail to attract new enterprises, as well risk deteriorating further and losing employment opportunities for the borough. Greenhill Works is designed to be the key catalyst in reinforcing Watford Business Park’s status as a strategic industrial area and support the growth of emerging and established industries in the region.

In bringing together their plans for Greenhill Works, Studio Egret West have established a series of design principles which underpin the architectural approach, as well as the ambitions for a wider site framework which can be delivered in the future. Overall, the vision is to create a business park for the future; one which is integrated with the city and the people that live there. The buildings and yard spaces are set in a natural landscape environment, and car parking is carefully considered so not to become the prominent feature of the site.

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Greenhill Works comprises circa 7,100m2 of commercial space, delivered via two module types - larger warehouse buildings as well as smaller pavilion structures. The larger building module, with its internal shell measuring approximately 36m x 30m, with a 6m structural grid, allows it to be divided into one, two or three units, depending on prospective tenant requirements. The project set out to challenge the standard industrial estate vernacular of grey or brick boxy warehouses; instead aiming to create intriguing structures and forms. The larger buildings are articulated with corner roof top elements, helping to define key entrances and routes through the site, as well as giving Greenhill Works a distinct character. The smaller pavilion buildings are characterised by their cantilevered structures, providing covered loading and working areas. The framework for the wider Watford Business Park proposes repetition of these two modular forms, which are of similar construction, layout and material finish, whilst still allowing for some individuality.

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Sustainability and materiality

With sustainability in mind, a glue laminated timber, or ‘glulam’ structure for the modules was adopted. Glulam has far less embodied energy than its steel counterpart (approx. 2.5x less), and its ability to be constructed off site allows for a high quality finish, economic efficiency, a shorter construction programme, as well as reduced noise pollution, dust and waste on site.

The structures can readily adapt to plot size and phasing requirements, with a freestanding footprint providing space on all four sides for additional openings to enable an office or retail unit use if required.

The façades are built up in a series of layers, and function as a kit of parts. An overarching grid combines polycarbonate, expanded metal, and solid aluminium panels, with openings for loading bays and pedestrian doors also unified through this grid. Larger areas of polycarbonate celebrate the timber structural frame and provide slightly obscured views in and out of the buildings. Mesh obscures the continuous polycarbonate band at upper levels, and is removed in varying locations across buildings to add composition to the otherwise regular gridded facade. Together, the outcome is a textured, layered and playful aesthetic where glimpses of light, shadow and movement animate the streetscape.

Internally, the mezzanine levels use plywood, which adds a warm, textural quality, whilst also being more sustainable than a standard plasterboard finish, and requires little maintenance. Accompanying the plywood structure will be servicing elements (pipes and cables) and barriers which protect the structure from collision and industrial activities. These are detailed in a manner which has been considered aesthetically whilst also meeting practical, functional requirements.

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Tying together the varying elements of Greenhill Works is a landscape approach which aims to create a holistic and consistent public realm with an industrial charter and abundance of naturalistic planting. Sustainable urban drainage, ensuring the practical space and requirements of an industrial park, and creating characterful public spaces for people have been critical in informing the design. Improved pedestrian and cycle routes encourage less reliance on cars, whilst verdant green edges and generous breathing space between components allow people to meet, collaborate, rest or play.

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There is flexibility within the design to construct the scheme in its entirety or in phases. An illustrative strategy has been developed, which delivers key infrastructure over the first phase, including a U shaped road, pedestrian routes and new substation to the south. This phase also allows for two of the larger building modules to be constructed, alongside the smaller pavilion building at the entrance to the site. The second phase sees the completion of the remaining three larger building modules and adjacent pavilion building, whilst also creating the second public space along Greenhill Crescent. The third and final phase looks to build out the remaining two pavilion buildings and final public space along Greenhill Crescent.

In bringing together their proposals, Studio Egret West have collaborated with an array of sub consultants, including two progressive engineering practices: Heyne Tillett Steel have provided structural and civil support, whilst Skelly & Couch have advised on M&E and sustainability.

Next steps
Work on the new development is expected to start this year, starting with the demolition of existing buildings in March 2021 and construction expected to get underway in October 2021.

Business parks should no longer be isolated industrial zones, and must instead be fully and seamlessly integrated into their urban fabric. At Greenhill Works, the green corridors, attractive buildings, and quality materials all point to a desirable destination that enhances its context for users as well as passing visitors.”
Christophe Egret Founder of Studio Egret West

Peter Taylor,Elected Mayor of Watford, “We are extremely excited to be launching Greenhill Works. Supporting our local businesses and creating the right environment for them to flourish is absolutely vital and a top priority for the council. Our local businesses are the lifeblood of our town, creating jobs and prosperity and keeping the town vibrant and successful.

A key part of this is providing the right spaces and conditions for them to thrive and grow. To do this we have to offer high-quality spaces and places that people want to work in. Our aspiration for the redevelopment of this gateway zone at the entrance to the Park is that, as well as attracting new businesses to the area, it will act as a catalyst to regenerate the rest of Watford Business Park.”

Adam Wood, Head of Infrastructure & Regeneration at Hertfordshire LEP, “The volume of available business premises in Hertfordshire has been significantly depleted in recent years. In order to maintain Hertfordshire’s contribution to the national economy, the vitality of our towns and cities, and to provide local employment opportunities for residents, it is essential that we continue to offer high quality spaces where our businesses can grow.

The regeneration of Watford Business Park will expand the area’s employment capacity and capitalise on the town’s excellent transport links, skilled workforce, and strong business base. We are delighted to support this scheme, which complements our wider programme of investment in Watford, including the regeneration of Clarendon Road, Trade City, Riverwell and Watford Junction station.”

Andy Heyne, Director of Heyne Tillett Steel, ‘‘Working closely with the design team we’ve developed an innovative and progressive typology for light industrial units. With sustainability and modern methods of construction at its heart, our modular braced frame solution creates a flexible structure which can easily be adapted to meet the evolving needs of industry, and is super-low in embodied carbon. Our SuDS strategies complimented the landscaping design and improved water quality. The progressive use of 'soil mixing' ground improvement techniques enhances the structural performance of the ground for foundation and road design, whilst locking in contamination and protecting the sensitive chalk aquifer. We’re delighted to be involved in a pioneering project that will act as a catalyst for the wider regeneration of Watford Business Park and supports the growth of emerging and establish industries in the region.’

Mark Maidment, Director of Skelly & Couch: “We are proud to be given the opportunity to contribute to a landmark development where we have designed spaces to be naturally ventilated while maximising daylighting and preventing overheating. This scheme, like all our projects, demonstrates our commitment to designing sustainable buildings which not only use less energy, but perform environmentally and socially, and stand the test of time for future generations.’’


Green light for Greenhill Works