‘Lego’ like hotel nearing completion

Brae Hotel- ‘Lego’ hotel - Brae shore

Constructed from modular units in Belfast and then shipped to Shetland to be assembled this real life ‘Lego’ hotel is scheduled to be complete and open to the public in autumn.

The 100 bedroom hotel is set on the shore at Brae and looks out over spectacular coastal scenery. When complete the two-and-a-half storey, mid-range hotel will meet the accommodation needs of oil and gas workers at Total’s new gas plant at Sullom Voe.

The design has used a contemporary vernacular style, with inspiration coming from the local architecture and topography. ICA Architects have been closely involved with the whole process and speaking to Premier Construction, Architect, Stephen Macaulay said:

“This is a brand new build hotel from BDL Management. The idea for the venue was conceived when engineers from Total’s new Laggan Tormore Project approached the firm with a view to providing them with a hotel.

“Shetland is exposed and the site is even more exposed, halfway up Shetland facing the sea it gets battered by a lot of wind. Therefore the idea emerged to prefabricate the majority of the hotel in factory conditions, meaning that the major elements of the hotel could be constructed off-site during the winter months without impacting the overall programme and quality of the product.

“All the modular units were built in Ireland and then transported, effectively like Lego pieces to be assembled in place in Brae.”

Did Stephen see this as a viable way forward for other developments in difficult environments? He said:

“Yes, certainly the way things are going in the industry. A decade ago we were using concrete frames, but there area lot more options now, increasingly you find yourself speaking to modular manufacturers.”

Brae Hotel- ‘Lego’ hotel - Brae shore

The units were offloaded in Shetland last month and currently the external works are underway, with the external walls and roof being fitted.

When asked about the inspiration for the external design, Stephen said:

“In terms of design, there was no precedence for a building of this type and scale existing in Shetland. The design takes inspiration from both urban forms (in Lerwick) and the more vernacular forms found throughout the islands. The aspiration was to create a building that would achieve the size and scale required by the brief without it looking out of place in this rural setting.

“I looked at local buildings for inspiration; the base of the structure is angled and made from local stone, which is a typical detail found on the islands.  It also beds the building into the landscape giving it an established feel. The white rendered walls will be reminiscent of the whitewashed cottages and the traditional roof and dormer forms brings down the scale of the building. The design of the gables and chimneys disguise the mass of the building and gives the building its own identity.

“The challenge of the design was to have a traditional design constructed in a modular way- that said the process did run fairly smoothly. What is interesting is that you need to think ahead and do a lot of detailed design up front because you only get one chance at installing; there is less scope for changing things when you get on site. This involved close working with the Main Contractor and various Sub-contractors.”

BDL Management projects that the hotel will bring the equivalent of about 30 full-time jobs to the area plus potentially up to 10 part-time housekeeping jobs.

BDL specialises in developing and managing hotel assets for owners, BDL has built 30 hotels (3850 rooms developed) and presently manage 48 hotels under management contract. The company has a long established working relationship with Wyndham Hotel Group, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and Best Western.

McAleer & Rushe are the main contractors on the £6 million development, the company is a privately owned multi award winning property development, investment and construction firm with over 40 years experience in acquisition, design, development, construction and management of a variety of property types.

The company has a highly experienced workforce that embraces a “can-do” attitude, built on strong family values inherent within the McAleer & Rushe Group.

Speaking about the use of modular units, Eamonn Connolly, Managing Director said:

“It’s taken several years of research and development to develop our system and this product. It’s unique in the world and we see a big future for it.

“The government’s low carbon transition plan is effectively the business plan for construction for the next 40 years and you can manufacture buildings in factory-controlled conditions much better than you can on site. You don’t have the vagaries of weather etc and, as we move into this new dispensation, this kind of build will be central.

“It has been challenging as construction is a conservative sector, but the impending building regulations are the catalyst for change and certainly we can bring a lot of work back home through this.”

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