Marks & Spencer has opened a new store in Cheshire Oaks, Chester, which is its largest outside London and the most sustainable.
Designed by architects Aukett Fitzroy Robinson (AFR), the store is claimed to set new standards for sustainability in the UK retail sector.
It has been built over two floors, totalling more than 18,100m2, and has received a BREEAM Excellent environmental rating.
According to AFR, the new store’s environmental impact has been greatly reduced due to the use of innovative sustainable design techniques and renewable materials.
Each part of the building has been designed by AFR to reflect the requirements and aspirations of M&S’s Plan A; a policy which aims to make it the most sustainable retailer in the world.
The design includes a wave-style roof, built from over 1400m³ of 100% FSC-certified, curved Glulam timber beams.
The roof features north-facing skylights which, together with strategically angled cedar wood Brise Soleil on the sides of the building, maximises the best use of indirect natural light, said to be uncommon in a retail environment.
Vast banks of soil can be seen around much of the structure and the building itself is deliberately partly sunk into the ground to provide natural insulation and help keep the store at a consistent temperature. Fresh air is tempered through an intricate system of underground earth tubes to provide natural ventilation and efficient air-conditioning.
The building’s walls are constructed from highly sustainable Hempcrete, a building material comprised of hemp and lime that acts as an extremely efficient insulator, while also allowing the building to breathe and absorb carbon from the atmosphere.
AFR claims it was the first to commercially use this bio-composite material in the UK on the Adnams Brewery Distribution Centre in Southwold (dubbed as Britain’s greenest warehouse), and has been instrumental in the further development of this product and its applications.
Suzette Vela Burkett, managing director of AFR, said: “The target of using as few construction materials as possible was always going to be a real challenge, but by the careful selection of materials it has allowed us to expose the timber and other structural components which have then become finished surfaces.”
In 201 Aukett Fitzroy Robinson was named Most Sustainable Architect at the Marks & Spencer Plan A Conference for its work on the Cheshire Oaks project and others in the M&S portfolio. Setting a benchmark for all future sustainable retail stores, all construction materials used on the new store were chosen for ease of buildability, low embodied energy, and recycled content; aiming to maximise and increase air tightness and overall flexibility in construction and design, said the company.
Throughout the construction process, measures were taken to reduce the carbon impact as much as possible. Components were prefabricated in order to minimise waste and maximise repetition, with demount options maximised to encourage the recycling of materials at the building’s demolition. Many of the materials used were sourced locally to reduce haulage miles and this improved the overall carbon footprint of the building whilst also benefitting the local community and economy.