Sustainability Reflections / 2

16.08.23 sustainability

2006 – ‘Probably the greenest warehouse in the UK’
Adnams Distribution Centre, Southwold

Our very enlightened client sought an environmental and sustainable exemplar, particularly unique in the industrial building sector over 17 years ago.

The design for a 5,000sqm single storey building is in a disused gravel pit that achieved BREEAM Excellent with a range of inherently sustainable and recyclable components, materials and systems aiming for carbon negative status, maximum energy efficiency and a large biodiversity contribution, all highly innovative and ecosystem aware.

Lime hemp walls

Materials included lime/hemp walls constructed from lime, quarry waste and hemp blocks. They were constructed in conjunction with traditional lime mortar, plaster and render. The Distribution Centre was the first large commercial use of Hemp in building construction, and will absorb approx. 80T of CO2 from the atmosphere. CO2 emissions check:

  • Brick and AAC block (worst case) + 216 kg/m2
  • Rendered block and block + 102 kg/m2
  • 300mm Hemcrete® wall – 31 kg/m2
  • 500mm Hemcrete® wall – 53 kg/m2

Curved glulam timber beams run 60m across the whole building, the longest timber span in the UK at the time, to provide a 35m column-free space, and using only 4% of the energy compared to producing steel beams.

Installation of curved glulam beams
Interior of warehouse

The roof is a 4,500sqm meadow of grass and wild flowers, chosen to enhance the setting, promote biodiversity and absorb CO2. It also helps to lower the U-values and regulate the internal temperatures.

Passive solar design included overhanging eaves and brises soleil to prevent excessive heat gains and solar glare in offices; natural daylight passes through clerestorey windows and rooflights; photo-voltaics power hot water heating and sell electricity back to the grid; entrance buffer spaces avoid excessive heat gains/loss of cold from the warehouse space, and the first floor office is naturally ventilated with traditional openable windows. Airtightness achieved throughout.

Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems and foul water strategies include the green roof attenuation, rainwater harvesting used in low flush WCs, a septic tank for foul water (with an option to use reed beds for sewage treatment) and the reuse of existing ponds within the site.

Section through the building

For the staff, wellbeing was inherent in the design with daylight, fresh air and healthy volumes provided, along with visible natural timber used structurally and for screens.

Early comments included “I can’t wait to get to work in the mornings”

More details on the project can be found here

Project Team:

Client – Adnams Plc
Architect – Aukett Swanke (London)
Quantity Surveyor – Northcroft (Cambridge)
M&E Engineer – Hoare Lea (Bristol)
Structural and Civil Engineer – Faber Maunsell (St Albans)
Lime/Hemp consultants – Lime Technology Limited
Consulting Engineers – Lister Beare
Contractor – Haymills Construction Ltd (Stowmarket)