Project Description

Eastlands Boatyard. An Adaptive Reuse Project

The proposal to improve and expand Eastlands Boatyard consists of the part refurbishment of the existing industrial buildings, the strip-out of an existing single-storey dwelling to be replaced by a new studio and workshops, the construction of a state-of-the-art larger industrial unit, and the construction of new berth holder facilities and headquarters building, all located within the site of the existing Eastlands Boatyard.

This project gave SWJ Consulting another Adaptive Reuse project that we are encountering more and more as businesses realise the benefits of changing and reinvigorating original, and often, charming structures to create new modern and more sustainable workspaces. Preserving an existing structure reduces the amount of new materials and energy needed to demolish and rebuild significantly reducing a project’s carbon footprint. Repurposing a historic structure can also create a unique office experience, a sense of pride for the workforce, and even contribute to the business’ corporate identity, helping set the business apart.

We have seen repurposing and adaptive use increase as commercial organisations realise the value of their brand by reducing our environmental footprint as well as creating innovative workspaces.


Project Team

Client: Eastlands Boatyard

Architect: PDP Architecture LLP

Contractor: Speltham Contracts Ltd

The challenge for us, as structural engineers, is knowing how the original structure was built. In the past 20 years, the business environment has moved towards more open and social workspaces with fewer internal walls and columns. This is the fundamental request of nearly all office refurbishments to open the space by removing supports and columns.

This is certainly true in the case of Eastlands Boatyard. It was not so much a change of use but a change of purpose. What was previously a workshop with a first-floor mezzanine was now to be opened up to create an open-plan office studio with a column-free span of about 10m. In structures built for light engineering use, they generally have higher superimposed loads than for offices, but the existing columns were significantly closer than those of the new layout.

The key to planning for the adaptive reuse of a building is having the as-built drawings or records of the original plans so you know the constraints and opportunities when adapting the original structure. Unfortunately, these were not available for the Eastlands Boatyard and so we had to undertake several intrusive investigations to ensure the existing floor slab, foundations, and steel structure was strong enough to bear the loads.

Construction record drawings should be kept by the owner of a building (having been handed over following completion as part of the health and safety requirement). They need to be kept for maintenance purposes and also to help with the planning for any changes to the structure. Another suppository for these records is building control, but this is not always the case.

In this case, we had to take core samples out of the slab, dig trial pits to ascertain the strength of the existing foundations, and complete surveys to measure the structural steel frames. These investigations could have been avoided with construction record drawings.

If you have an adaptive reuse project please give us a call on 02381 920656 or email to arrange a non-obligation chat about what you are aiming to achieve and how we might be able to help and add value to your project.