BSkyB’s new Believe in Better Building training and education centre in Osterley, West London, is turning heads.

The use of a glulam frame, cross-laminated timber (CLT) floors, walls and roof, plus huge areas of glass for the 3,000m2 structure makes it a truly stunning building to behold.

Engineered wood use for a commercial building of this size in the UK is rare.

The objective of the project was to construct a low energy structure within a short time period – making solid timber and timber cassettes the optimum rapid and sustainable solution.

BSkyB’s own sustainability strategy shaped the building philosophy.

Keeping sustainability at the forefront was important so the exposed engineered timber structure leaves no ambiguity as to the building’s construction.

The educational facility, which sits at the centre of the Sky Campus, is the first in a series of three buildings planned in BSkyB’s programme.

The initiative uses the power of television, creativity and sport to help young people achieve their potential by gaining the skills, experience and inspiration needed to help.

B&K meets challenge
Timber construction specialist B&K Structures delivered the structure, describing the project as outstanding yet challenging.

"With BSkyB’s own sustainability strategy shaping the building philosophy and the company’s 25th anniversary celebrations looming – speed and ease of construction were essential," said B&K managing director Nick Milestone.

"Ultimately, this meant a design, build and fit-out programme of less than one year – a major challenge for a project of this scale and stature.

"A hybrid structure manufactured offsite and optimised to meet the sustainability targets, budget and timescale was the only solution.

"Only through the use of BIM technology and CNC machines, could we ensure we delivered a structure manufactured to exacting tolerances, which guaranteed that the detailed connections were precise.

"The design process was made simple and repetitive – ensuring the strict time constraints were achieved as well as meeting the high performance requirements for the operational use of the building.

"This 3,000m2 building is a complete one of a kind, comprising of glulam and cross laminated timber enhanced with our structural timber wall panels for speed and ease of construction to allow immediate installation of the M&E whilst the rain screen and curtain cladding was undertaken concurrently."

Arup Associates designed and engineered the three-storey building, which has an additional storey accommodating a restaurant and roof terrace to complete an inviting multi-functional amenity. Mace was the main contractor.

The solid timber frame was able to meet the natural look and feel that BSkyB were looking for and timber cassettes were again able to offer the low thermal resistance and high airtightness that the structure required to meet the design brief.

The optimised hybrid structure, constructed offsite, not only provided speed of build but also ensured cost and programme certainty for the completion of the project.

BSkyB had specific sustainability targets mapped out for the structural framing options, including a 15% reduction in embodied carbon of construction, 27% of recycled content and responsible sourcing of materials through PEFC timber.

The building features a green roof with a CLT structure, covered with PV panels and sedum.

Timber cassettes utilised to erect the walls ranged from 0.7m – 2.5m in width to 1.5m – 12.5m in length to accommodate the window arrangement.

Designing the propping for the CLT panels was difficult because of their large size.

In order to overcome these challenges, careful scheduling and co-ordination was executed at the early stages of the development, including forward planning of propping the CLT panels.

The design process was made simple and repetitive in order to be completed within the strict build.

B&K used 3D modelling to ensure there was no loss of performance in the final product.

The building, now valued at about £14m, incorporates a rainwater harvesting system, solar panels and high efficiency lighting to minimise energy consumption.

Environmental performance
The building was awarded BREEAM Excellent and could achieve beyond zero embodied CO2 emissions (when including carbon sequestered when the wood was growing in trees) rating.

It has attracted worldwide attention including visits from the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, as well as Sky ambassador David Beckham.

The project exceeded Sky’s sustainability aspirations through renewable and zero carbon timber construction.

It was so impressed B&K has been appointed to provide sustainable structures for its next two buildings which will be constructed from timber systems using the same supply chain.

"This was a truly an exciting build, which presented the opportunity for B&K Structures to validate our extensive product portfolio and specialist services," said Mr Milestone.

"It was great to work with such a pioneering client and we look forward to continue to work with Sky in the future on their Health & Fitness Centre which is the next phase of the build programme."