M&S Cheshire Oaks, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire


In January 2007 Marks and Spencer (M&S) launched Plan A, a commitment to combat climate change, reduce waste, use sustainable raw materials and help its customers lead healthier lifestyles. As part of this plan, the company started to develop a series of ‘sustainable learning’ stores to trial new technologies; the aim, through post occupancy evaluation, is to build a strong bank of knowledge and experience of sustainable building practice. The new store at Cheshire Oaks, the third ‘sustainable learning store’ to be built, is also the second largest M&S store in the country and is the company’s flagship for sustainability, carbon efficiency, biodiversity and material innovation, with the use of timber, both for construction and for fuel, as a central concept of the design. The building has been designed to be 35 per cent more carbon efficient and 3 per cent more energy efficient than a peer store and has received a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ certification and full BM TRADA FSC® Project Certification.

Cheshire Oaks, in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, is a new retail site in a densely populated area with 600 homes near the store and thriving businesses located immediately around it. The client involved the local community during planning, design and construction, which generated much local interest.

BREEAM requirements for the improvement of the quality of flora and fauna on the site challenged the design team to deliver a net gain in biodiversity. Improvements to landscaping include the planting of 228 new trees, while existing hedgerows have been enhanced with further planting to generate greater biodiversity by providing wildlife habitats; this should create a very attractive setting for M&S customers in the future. The trees themselves will potentially absorb some 800 tonnes of CO2 by the time they reach maturity. New habitats have been created for a number of species, including 14,000 newts, toads and frogs.

The store is served by 958 car parking spaces, with electric car charging points and shelters for 100 bicycles. Improved transport connections, including shuttle buses, cycle paths and footpaths have been installed to encourage sustainable travel. The car park elevation has a green wall planting system.


Building description

The new store (17,650m2 gross internal area) is arranged over two floors with departments including menswear, womenswear, food, home and furniture and customer restaurants. Passive design measures were incorporated wherever possible. The building is partly surrounded at its perimeter with earth mounding of surplus soils and clays, to improve insulation and to increase its inherent thermal mass.

The structure is a steel and glulam hybrid frame and comprises 48 steel columns which support the first floor and rise above it as a series of tree-like splayed arms, supporting curved glulam beams which run in a wave-like formation to create an undulating roof. Using over 36,000 stainless steel bolts, the glulam beams are fixed by means of steel cruciform connections to the splayed arms, which are fixed in turn to the primary structure with forked connections. The glulam beams comprise 38 lamellas of whitewood and incorporate carbon fibre rods to prevent de-lamination at the crowns of the arched roof.

The first floor structure, a series of steel beams on a 5 x 10 metre grid, supports glulam joists and an LVL and screed floor with a finish of floor tiles. The glulam joists and LVL are exposed to act as the ceiling finish on the ground floor.

The external walls of the store consist of prefabricated timber-framed panels developed by Lime Technology. The panels, generally 2.4 metres high, 4.8 metres wide and 400mm thick, are filled with a lime-based insulating material and a hemp and flax fibre insulating quilt, to achieve a breathable wall with a U value of 0.12W/m2K. The panels, together with recycled glass wool insulation within the roof, help to regulate internal temperature.

The store incorporates passive design measures that help reduce energy consumption. Natural daylight is maximized by the use of north-facing roof lights and clerestory glazing, while solar gains from glazing on the south and east elevations are controlled by cedar brise soleil. A fully dimmable DALI lighting system has been installed on the sales floors, with integrated daylight control.

An extensive displacement ventilation system which facilitates free cool air handling is integrated into the steel and glulam hybrid frame. Incoming fresh air is tempered through earth tubes before entering the building and served through air displacement columns, with warm air being retrieved at high level. A biomass boiler and heat reclaim from refrigeration is expected to deliver 70 per cent of the heating required by the store.

Rainwater harvesting is predicted to displace 25 per cent of the store’s mains water demand with an 80,000 litre underground tank which irrigates the green wall and serves the customer toilets. Waterless urinals, dual flush W.Cs and sensor taps all contribute to water efficiency while metering and leak detection measures ensure that nothing is wasted.


Timber and sustainability

Timber was used, not only for its sustainable qualities but also because it was able to express the structure and honesty of the building and reduce unnecessary finishes which increase cost and energy maintenance demands in the future. All components were modelled in 3D, ensuring that the design was fully integrated before commencement of manufacture. This also had a positive benefit in the reduction of waste materials.

As part of the M&S Plan A, all timber used in the store was required to be FSC® certified. This was a challenging demand, especially considering the huge amount of timber used; certification verifies that the wood has been responsibly sourced and is tracked throughout the supply chain right back to the forest of origin.

  • The glulam beams are of pure FSC® European whitewood (Picea Abies) sourced from Austria and Germany.
  • The western red cedar cladding and external brise soleil were FSC®-sourced from Canada.
  • Modular walling carcasses and LVL (laminated veneer lumber) structural flooring were from mixed FSC® sources.
  • The glazing system incorporated FSC Bavarian European whitewood.
  • General internal joinery timber of European whitewood and sawn softwood, OSB and plywood came from various FSC® certified suppliers including Travis Perkins, Arnold Laver, Howarths, Lawcris, Bradfords Timber Supplies, Snows Timber, GE Robinson and Co, John Porter Doors and Huws Gray.
  • Benches were made of recycled oak sourced from the site clearance. Swift, bat and bird boxes were constructed of recycled untreated timber sourced from FSC® certified formwork off-cuts collected on site.


Other sustainable factors

The store’s design team achieved 30 per cent recycled content by value including the 100 per cent recycled aluminium roof and 40 per cent recycled ceramic floor tiles. Concrete mix designs were adapted to include recycled content and recycled insulation was used in the roof lining. Over 60 per cent of aggregates used in the ground works were from locally recycled sources, with virgin aggregates and gabion infill natural stone also locally sourced.

Ten per cent of waste was diverted from landfill during the build process with 87.5 per cent of all waste segregated on site. Resource sharing of left over materials and packaging through community initiatives enabled 126 tonnes of material to be diverted from the waste stream including plant pots, pallets, plywood, cable drums and timber sections.

Completion Date:

August 2012

Year Published:

June 2013

Building Type:

Retail store


Ellesmere Port, Cheshire


Aukett Fitzroy Robinson

Owner / Client:

Marks and Spencer

Structural Engineer:

Aecom (Faber Maunsell)

Main Contractor:

Simons Group Ltd

Steel, Glulam and LVL Design and Build Contractor:

B&K Structures Ltd

Timber Supplier:

Derix (structural glulam)

Other Associated Companies:

Steico UK Ltd, Senior Architectural Systems Ltd, Levolux AT Ltd, Lime Technologies Ltd

Timber Element(s):

Glulam roof structure, timber-framed cladding panels, structural upper floors, timber-framed curtain wall, brise soleil

Timber Species:

European whitewood, western red cedar, LVL, OSB, plywood

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