Specialist skills needed to design specialist food buildings

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Specialist skills needed to design specialist food buildings

Postby bedfordarchitect » Wed Oct 13, 2010 4:54 pm

The world of architecture can be a complex and challenging one, where many hurdles need to be overcome and every box painstakingly ticked in order to achieve the desired result. One such challenging area is that of specialist food buildings, which, due to the differing nature of each food and modern food hygiene standards, requires specialist bespoke design solutions that accommodate a large number of factors.

These solutions can only derive from a company that provides outstanding design capability and technical knowledge, and has extensive experience in the field; one such company is Woods Hardwick.

With over 40 years’ experience in the building industry, Woods Hardwick has worked with a number of key clients within the food sector, and is due to begin work on yet another specialist food building project, Adams Food Ingredients which started on site at the end of August 2010. Our expertise and flair within this arena is proving to be formidable, so how do we do it? How are these specialist bespoke solutions achieved?

The first and most vital stage of our comprehensive design process involves the Architect and design team immersing themselves in the client company to fully understand the key logistical factors and operational flow of the business; it is this thorough understanding that dictates and affects the outcome of the new facility, so it is essential that it’s carried out competently and efficiently.

The process flow and layout requirements directly affect the design and form of the building, the principal function being to enclose the business processes within properly engineered spaces. In an ideal world, the process would generally be a straight-line flow through the building, thus making the building extremely long. In reality, the site will rarely offer this ideal situation, which is where the Architect, working closely with the Process Engineer, plays a crucial role of creating a building layout that accommodates turns in the process line at the most convenient points to maximise business efficiency.

Many complex activities occur throughout the process and packing cycle, such as hygiene standards, segregation of different food stuffs and varying temperature and environmental controls, all of which have an impact on the building design and must be accounted for during the planning and organisational part of the design process. Hygiene protocols are particularly important as they must adhere to strict standards and the factory must endure rigorous inspections to ensure these standards are achieved. This can, at times, create complicated arrangements of spaces due to the nature of the segregation of high and low care areas.

The detailing of the building fabric also plays a key role in achieving the necessary hygiene standards; materials and finishes must be carefully selected in all areas and allow ease of cleaning via the systems adopted by the business.

We’ve discussed the main factors in creating a specialist food building, but how does this all work in reality? One example by Woods Hardwick is the Kerrygold Company, a cheese manufacturer, whose challenging brief involved the replacement of their existing building on the same site whilst the original building remained in operation.

Following the first stage outlined above, several key design and operational principles had to be understood before the new design could be developed; the main objective being to understand the functionality and logistics of how the cheese process and packaging flow works. Based on this, a principle flow diagram was developed with the client that was used as a basis to form the building expansion and structure.

As detailed above, this flow diagram was the ‘ideal’ straight line process which then had to be altered to fit the space available. People-flow, location and space for goods in and goods out and, most importantly, hygiene protocols (as well as other factors) were then taken into account to produce the ultimate design.

The architectural make-up of the building included cladding systems and the interspersion of glazing, expressed columns and horizontal elements to create rhythm in the modular flow of the building.

Another project successfully executed by Woods Hardwick is Direct Table Foods, which, as well as addressing all the normal issues associated with designing a food building, had the added challenge of being a replacement of their original premises which had been destroyed as the result of a devastating fire. This meant the new 130,000sqft bacon-packing plant had to be designed and constructed within very tight timescales to ensure the business was able to continue with minimal disruption. The first and most critical phase was designed and constructed within 12 months of the fire and allowed the company to continue to expand. The planned second phase (a 70,000sqft extension) started within 12 months of completing the first phase, and had to ensure the recently completed building was not affected and remained in full operation whilst the extension was constructed.

So, to achieve a specialist bespoke solution for a food building requires an experienced and knowledgeable team of architectural and design experts, who have to factor in a great deal of issues and stringent hygiene protocols to exacting standards. The multi-disciplined nature of Woods Hardwick means we are able to offer just this, which is why Adams Food Ingredients have appointed us to design their new food processing and packaging factory, incorporating a phased development approach to allow for future expansion.

If you would like to talk to us about a similar project, or indeed any architectural project we could help with, please contact us for more information at http://www.woodshardwick.com/contact.php
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