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Constructing the Incubator Building

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The Incubator, in Alconbury Weald, Huntingdon is a brand new development constructed on the Alconbury Enterprise Campus.

The Incubator is a flagship building for Urban & Civic, which provides flexible space for small and start-up businesses within the heart of the Alconbury Weald development.

Kier Construction was the main contractor on the construction of the Incubator, whilst Allford Hall Monaghan Morris Architects (AHMM) provided all architectural services. Work began on the project in April 2013 and was completed in December 2013.

The project comprised the erection of a two storey building with a four storey tower, with an internal area of 15,000 sq ft, including 9,200 sq ft of lettable office space. Auxiliary spaces include a café, a marketing suite, meeting rooms and break-out spaces.

The building’s structure is primarily a concrete flat slab frame, chosen for its rigid structure and stabilising thermal properties. The self-finished concrete texture also allowed for exposed soffits and columns to create a robust and low maintenance aesthetic.

The slabs used a tailored prefabricated reinforcement system, BAMTEC, which was rolled out on site, saving 35% of materials by comparison to a traditional build. Where possible, a self-finished material was selected for the building’s finish, to encourage a robust, functional aesthetic to the building’s overall design.

As part of the wider masterplan for Alconbury Weald, a new boulevard was constructed, which serves the Incubator. The boulevard includes 1100 trees, which are upwards of 30 foot in height and create an instant line of greenery around the new boulevard.

Discussing the project, Barry Cho of AHMM, said:

“Office flexibility and the capacity to expand was inherent to the design of this multi-tenanted building. The building structure is a system of six metre wide bays and a typical section which provides lettable spaces, corridors as well as a glazed communal gallery. When linked, these bays provide a linear massing capable of being sub-divided, connected horizontally and/or vertically.

“The in-situ concrete frame also has the advantage of high thermal mass, which, in tandem with a mixed mode ventilation system and Part L-exceeding external envelope, can be utilised to cut the amount of energy required to keep the building cool. The exposed soffits take advantage of the thermal mass, which allows a generous 3.2m floor to ceiling height to office spaces.”

Barry added:

“The driving ambition of the project was to achieve a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating. There were several constraints to attain an Excellent rating, many of which were owed to the building being in a remote Brownfield site.

“Throughout the design development, numerous strategies for sustainable design were considered and the resultant effect was successful. The building achieved an A asset rating in the EPC certificate.”

Additional highlights of the project include the use of rainwater harvesting within the building’s washrooms, which resulted in the use of low-volume cisterns for toilet facilities and Urban & Civic and AHMM’s desire to source as many local materials as possible. In addition, all furniture and fit-out equipment was designed and manufactured entirely in the UK.

Barry said:

“The Incubator provides a new opportunity for AHMM and Urban & Civic to build on their combined experience of delivering contemporary architecture to signify and catalyse the process of change and re-development.

“It is the first new building on this huge site, and as such it is an appropriate statement of intent for the quality and ambition of future development in the Alconbury Enterprise Campus.

“The Incubator design which includes a glazed communal break out space, aims to foster a business community within the building. The Incubator has been designed to support new and small companies in the Alconbury Enterprise Campus as well as promote Alconbury Weald as a whole. As the Enterprise Campus develops around it, the open design of the building, café, rentable meeting rooms and incredible views from the roof terrace will help secure its status as the flagship and core of the wider business community.”

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