Paper Yard

Innovative foundations & MMC deliver ‘meanwhile’ lab space on masterplan site

Covering 21 hectares, the Canada Water development is one of the largest mixed-use regeneration projects in London.

As part of the masterplan, British Land have created a 30,000 sq ft (2,800 sq metres) innovation hub consisting of modular lab space in Canada Water called the Paper Yard. This is a good example of ‘meanwhile use’. The site will be redeveloped as part of the wider masterplan at a later date.

Walsh were approached by the contractor, Galdris, at RIBA Stage 4 with a view to value engineering the substructure design for a life sciences innovation hub including below ground drainage, external pavement design and foundations for the modular lab buildings.

The biggest challenges the site presented were soft alluvium subsoil and the presence of an infilled dock, meaning the soil was soft and inconsistent. The initial design that had been proposed by others to get round differential settlement on the problematic site was a material intensive-piled foundation solution with heavy pile caps with a high embodied carbon level. As well as being expensive, it also introduced programme and health and safety risks.

Walsh’s in-house Geotechnical team undertook a sensitivity analysis of the foundations. The analysis showed the worst case settlements and likely ‘soft spots’, so the Structural team was able to design a raft foundation which mitigated these scenarios and provided a robust substructure.

Walsh also recognised that the labs had a short design life (specified as 10 years) and that long-term durability issues were not relevant. By designing the building for a 15-year life span, we were able to provide some redundancy and an optimised design when compared to the original design proposals which were based on 50 years.

The Walsh approach shortened the programme by removing critical path activities such as piling and the need to break out the existing concrete hardstanding. This would have turned the site into a quagmire and introduced further risk. Taking this innovative approach delivered a comparatively low-carbon solution and provided a commercial saving.

The labs have taken just nine months to build through the use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). The modular units have been manufactured and are fully kitted out by Premier Modular in East Yorkshire before being moved into position on site and bolted together. This rapid delivery and construction approach means the innovation hub can also be scaled up in line with increased demand, providing much needed lab space to supporting the growing British life science industry.

  • British Land
  • Hawkins Brown
Completion Date2023
  • Canada Water
  • East London
  • London

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