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Work starts on cutting-edge sustainability research site at Carriage Works, Swindon

By Harry Whittle
6 May 2022

Construction and conservation work to convert Swindon's historic Grade II listed, Carriage Works, into a sustainability research facility has commenced.

The £11million University of Bath project aims to become a UK leader in sustainability research.

The work at the Victorian Great Western Railway building has moved to Phase 2 - the conversion of the West Shed in London Street into modern work spaces.

When completed the project will provide around 60,000 sq ft of workspace for a mix of businesses, technology firms, creative and digital start-ups, and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs).

One of the largest spaces will be occupied by the Innovation Centre for Applied Sustainable Technologies (iCAST), a research and development centre based at the University of Bath’s Centre for Sustainable and Circular Technologies, to support and expand its renowned work.

The iCAST conducts research into manufacturing and engineering materials, biobased feedstock, biodegradable circular plastics, and other sustainable technologies to help deliver a step-change in the innovation strategies of companies working in green growth industries.

Work to create the new facility is expected to be completed in six months. Four other units for commercial use are also being developed as part of the 15,000 - 20,000 sq ft project.

Ingleton Wood, an Oxford-based property and construction consultancy, has been appointed to provide mechanical and electrical (M&E) services for Phase 2 at the Carriage Works.

Peter Webb, director, building services engineering at Ingleton Wood, said: “We are excited to be supporting such a significant and ambitious regeneration scheme at Brunel’s Great Western Railway in the heart of Swindon.

“The project will create a state-of-the-art research facility to help expand the scope and scale of the sustainability work carried out by the University of Bath. We are also undertaking vital conservation work to the iconic 19th century railway sheds which had been on Historic England’s ‘Heritage at Risk’ register.

“With our experience of delivering considered and appropriate designs to help to save at-risk buildings, we are confident of not only preserving the legacy of Brunel but bringing this beautiful early Victorian-era industrial facility back into purposeful modern use.”

Phase 2 is being funded by a £4 million grant from the government’s Getting Building Fund.

iCAST also brings together industry with expertise at the universities of Bath and Oxford, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult’s Sustainability Partnership (National Composites Centre and Centre for Process Innovation), innovation experts at SETsquared, the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP), and investors.

Matthew Davidson, iCAST director, said: “It is fantastic for iCAST to have a dedicated facility at the Carriage Works in Swindon. It sits midway between Bath and Oxford but is also very well connected to the rest of the UK and is an iconic and historic building in which to be located.

“We already have over 50 companies as part of iCAST and we hope the joint industry projects that we are developing with them will help bring industry back to the Carriage Works.”

Built in around 1876 as part of Brunel’s Great Western Works, the buildings were once the largest carriage works in the country and remain a symbol of Victorian industrial innovation. Network Rail transferred ownership of the Carriage Works to Swindon Borough Council in a land swap agreement in 2018 to pave the way for the multi-million-pound regeneration.

The Carriage Works is already home to the Royal Agricultural University’s Cultural Heritage Institute and the Workshed business hub as part of earlier Phase 1 work.

Bailey Partnership is providing Lead Consultant services including project management, quantity surveying and principal designer services for the Phase 2 project.

Shaun Wells-Burr, lead consultant at Bailey Partnership, said: “It is great to bring the Grade II listed railway sheds back into use and support Swindon in its ambition to create a modern educational hub providing modern educational facilities for the future of Swindon whilst honouring its historical heritage.

“With our head office located in Plymouth where Brunel's Royal Albert Bridge proudly connects Devon to Cornwall by rail, this project strikes a real chord. We are excited to hand over the project in the autumn.”

London-based Metropolitan Workshop has been appointed as the architects and Guildford-based Perega is providing structural engineering services.

Ingleton Wood has also been appointed to provide M&E services for future Phase 3 work in which the East Shed.

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