Commercial buildings on rural sites may look much the same from the outside, but scratch the surface of a new workshop at Ninn Farm, on the outskirts of Ashford, and it tells a different story.

The 768 sq m building, designed and built by Hadlow-based Page Surveyors working with contractors led by Wealden AM, reflects an imaginative approach to a raft of tricky technical challenges faced by director Neil Farrance and the team.

The new building was provided for the Godinton House Preservation Trust, which needed somewhere bigger and purpose built for one of its tenants, specialist marble, slate and granite fabricators Stonewright UK.

Wealden AM was involved from the early stages of the design process, discussing the requirements with tenant Adrian Wainwright, whose company produces natural stone fireplaces and surrounds, kitchen worktops and floor tiles.

Stonewright UK had outgrown its existing premises at Ninn Farm, an old concrete barn, and needed a bigger, modern unit that could cope with their growing business and its specific challenges, not least the need to move heavy slabs of granite safely and keep cutting heads cool.
Adrian discussed his requirements for the building with Sean Chaplin of Wealden AM, working closely with Neil Farrance of Page Surveyors and Nick Sandford from Godinton House Preservation Trust,

Page Surveyors, now an independent firm once again after parting company with BTF Partnership last summer, was able to oversee the whole package, from planning and design through to construction.

“We specialise in delivering a total package, from field to finished project with the tenant in place,” explained Neil. “It’s a comprehensive service that means the landlord can relax in the knowledge that the project management is in safe hands.

Stonewright UK can move their 2m by 3.5m slabs of 40mm thick marble and granite safely, too, since the steel-framed building by Wealden AM was adapted to take a three-tonne gantry crane.

“Being actively involved in the design process meant that we were able to incorporate the support requirements into the main structure of the building without the need for any additional independent steelwork,” explained Sean. “The support rails were tailored to ensure that the crane had the maximum operational footprint within the building, including the use of a loading platform onto the mezzanine floor for additional storage if required.”

The tenant is also benefiting from a more efficient and effective cooling system for the cutting heads the company uses to cut the giant slabs of raw material. “Because we designed the new building from scratch we were able to incorporate a new water system which is used not only to cool the heads but to remove dust from the extracted air,” said Neil.

The building incorporates advanced rainwater harvesting techniques to keep down the cost of that side of the business and the new system recycles close to 100% of the water is uses.

As well as rainwater harvesting, the building features a 50kw solar PV installation on the roof which had to be designed around the high grade roof lights the company specified to allow as much natural daylight as possible in to the building.

The steel-framed structure has a hot-dipped galvanised finish, providing a high level of corrosion resistance, essential in an environment where wet cutting takes place daily. The steelwork throughout the building is designed to BS5950 standard and manufactured to the latest CE marking standards in accordance with EN1090, the latest legal requirement for building manufacture.

The 43m by 18m building was the largest that Page Surveyors could fit on to the site, and even that had to be adjusted slightly on the ground to allow for overhead power cables and other buildings. “We had to take a flexible approach to get the maximum benefit for the client and the end user,” Neil said.

As well as providing a new and more efficient building, Page Surveyors took the opportunity to uprate the power supply – from 40kva to a more appropriate 200kva – and include a five-metre deep mezzanine floor at one end of the building. This provides office and showroom space on the ground floor and additional storage and workshop space above.

The roof was constructed from insulated 115mm thick composite panels, with purlins designed to accommodate additional loadings from the solar panels.

The building is clad in insulated 80mm composite panels, while the insulated sectional doors supplied and installed by Yiannis Doors allow efficient movement in and out of the building while keeping thermal losses to a minimum. Double-glazed doors and windows to the office end of the building ensure the building is fully compliant with building regulations as well as providing a high level of thermal efficiency and reducing costs.

The planning for the site was carried out by Rural Partners, with groundworks by G J Elgar Construction and electrical work by P J Electrical. The solar PV installation was by M3 Solutions.

Just to make life more interesting, Page Surveyors had to make sure the sectional doors could roll up past the gantry crane fittings. “As far as a commercial building was concerned it was a perfect storm,” explained Neil.

“We had to think about rainwater harvesting and recycling, solar PV, an uprated power supply, an overhead crane, roller doors, rooflights and a confined space – all in the same building. We also had to make sure it was a slick changeover from one building to another so that the tenant could keep working.”

It was vital that the team met the planned time frame since Stonewright UK needed the building complete in time to take delivery of a number of important items of new machinery.

Meeting the deadline meant preparing the site in some challenging winter conditions, and G J Elgar Construction worked closely with Wealden AM to allow mass pouring of the concrete floor during the building phase. Close team working also allowed the solar PV panels to be installed as part of the build to avoid the need for a second scaffolding lift.

With everything running smoothly, Stonewright UK was able to move its dozen-strong team into the new building, with the benefit to the client of being able to charge rent on the new premises.

Derek Page, now senior consultant, founded Page Associates, which was part of the BTF Partnership for about 2 ½ years until July 2014. With Duncan Pierce and Neil as directors, the team is completed by project manager Angus Theisen, trainee surveyor James Brown and office manager Stephanie Harding.

“Wealden AM’s relationship with Page Surveyors goes back more than 20 years and is developing into new and interesting areas of construction. We are expanding this important relationship which enables us to provide customers with the benefit of both our companies’ experience, as well as our combined technical, constructional and logistical expertise,” said Sean.