Lime Avenue Business & Box Units - Project of the Year 2022 

Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council

Project of the Year 2022
Project Overview
The project comprises construction of buildings on two sites in close proximity on Lime Avenue on the Works site in Ebbw Vale

The brief for the Box Units was for the creation of a business start-up facility consisting of shipping containers.

Originally to be tendered separately and procured traditionally, the funding deadline left insufficient time to develop the tender documentation, so the only mechanism for timely delivery was to tender them with the Business Units.

The Business Units were to be high quality speculative business units with of client-defined sizes, connected to the site District Heating network.

Project Name Lime Avenue Business & Box Units
Project Location Lime Avenue, Ebbw Vale
Project Start Date December 2019
Practical Completion July 2021
Project Value £7.4m
QS/Cost Consultant Lee Richards (BGCBC), Stephen Watkins (Kier)
Structural Engineer Bradley Associates – post contract
Electrical/Mechanical Engineer Nathan Jones (BGCBC pre-contract), McCanns – post contract
Contractor Kier
Building Control BGCBC
Architect Jim Allen - pre-contract, Malcolm Walker EPT architects post-contract

The team were instructed by BG Regeneration in Autumn of 2017 to design two separate projects, a development of speculative hybrid business units (B1 units with additional office facilities) and a shipping container development. The projects were separately funded by Welsh Government and WEFO respectively.

The latter resulted from clients visiting similar developments in Bristol, wanting a similar facility for business start-ups in Ebbw Vale.


A site opposite the Learning Zone was selected for a low-cost business environment to encourage students to set up their own businesses, and accommodating existing small businesses wanting self-contained accommodation.

The number and size of units was developed over the course of 8-12 months with the Regeneration client team based on historic demand data.


The Planning department were extremely resistant to the construction of a shipping container development close to a listed building and in a prominent location adjacent to the Learning Zone flagship building on the site.


To address concerns, the containers were staggered vertically and horizontally to articulate the massing, orientated towards the main pedestrian thoroughfare and clad in a material that preserved the industrial look and modularity, but an improving on the typical shipping container appearance without conflicting with the site materials palette.


The upper units were supported on a transfer structure which used the existing structural load points from the ground floor units and are self-supporting despite the offsets.

The building also had to address Diamond Jubilee Square adjacent, creating an urban space contained on three sides.


The form references the angled geometry of the immediate environment, but maintains the modularity of the units. The alignment of First Floor unit N was deliberately adjusted slightly to break the rhythm and introduce an element of surprise and intrigue.

The number and sizes of the units meant that not all units could be contained within the main zigzag arrangement facing the square. A separate contrasting rectilinear block addressed the vehicular access on the North and acted as a foil for the staggered units.


The design had to address the more polished exterior of the Learning Zone, while preserving the industrial nature of the shipping containers.


The building needed additional height facing the 3 storey Learning Zone opposite, so a self-contained frame was positioned over the units, acting as a ‘wing’ supporting a large south-facing PV array. This structure also acts as a ‘lid’ visually connecting the wings. Originally designed to also function as a weather canopy, funding limitations prevented this from being realised.


Trespa-clad service cupboards were attached to the end of each unit with supergraphics to identify individual units and acting as a major design feature.

The construction is designed to be temporary with the ability to be dismantled and reassembled at an alternative location.


The project required very close collaboration with a specialist shipping container fit-out contractor.

The floor area falls below the BREEAM threshold, and the constrained container width prevented affordably increasing performance beyond Building Regulations requirements, but the approach to sustainability was essentially the same as for the business units.

Standard sustainability measures were incorporated including locally-sourced, recycled & recyclable materials, zero maintenance low VOC finishes, all electric building services, energy-efficient equipment and fittings.  


The Business Units were sized specifically in response to client demand data for the Borough.

The basic form echoed the REGAIN building immediately to the South which won the 2013 CEW sustainability award.

Cardiff University worked with the BG team to undertake a detailed analysis of the form and location of the building to optimise performance. 


Lessons from REGAIN were employed on the units with the form consisting of a series of 3 simple rectangular blocks, orientated east-west with rooflights, simple vertical slit windows and a high performance zero maintenance envelope.


The building was designed to be simple and elegant, with a materials palette consistent with the site generally. 


Planning objections caused the vertical timber slat brises soleils to be replaced with an alternative material.


Gold coloured perforated anodized aluminium was selected as a lightweight zero maintenance material which contrasted strongly with the anthracite cladding, but didn’t clash with the existing timber and Corten cladding on the site, and enlivened the façade with a striking modern material from a recycled, recyclable material.

The units made use of an ICF walling system called Durisol. Sourced locally (7 miles away) and constructed from recycled timber with a weak mix concrete binder, it provides excellent levels of thermal, acoustic, fire and weather performance, with rapid construction in a single skin.


Pre-dating the SAB regulations, SUDS measures were introduced for the business units but omitted for VE for the Box units.

The project achieved BREEAM Excellent.

This site has specific requirements for all buildings to maximise locally-sourced and supplied materials and subcontractors, with social value targets in excess of those mandated by the procurement framework used for tendering.

The speculative nature of the development limited consultation and engagement opportunities, however the BG team worked very closely with the client team during the initial design stage, and the contractor’s team during construction to optimize construction while maintaining design quality.


The contractor worked with BG organising ‘meet the buyer’ events, and measuring performance against local sourcing and TR&T targets. Detailed data was not available before the submission date, but all targets were confirmed as exceeded.


Both projects were tendered via D&B having been designed to Stage 2/3 for development by the contractor's team.


The specialist nature of the works posed problems for the contractor, requiring a subcontractor with experience in shipping containers.


In December 2019 Kier were appointed. Construction commenced in February 2020, with handover in June 2021.

The tender sum increased from £6.5m to just over £7.4m having added costs associated with site abnormals including contamination, services installations and minor specification tweaks. 


Throughout the course of the project, the BG team worked closely with the contractor to develop the design while maintaining the design intent.


Covid was a particular issue, adding cost, causing delay with lockdown complicating the process of inspecting the container units’ construction offsite.