Wirral Waters is said to be the largest regeneration project in the UK and will eventually transform more than 500 acres of Birkenhead’s former docks into a new business and leisure destination. It is also set to become one of the most sustainable enterprise zones in the country as well as an exciting place to live, work and spend time. Design plans envisage an area that is not over reliant on the car and to achieve this aim the construction of a tram network to link into the existing Mersey rail system has been mooted.
One of the scheme’s first office developments is known as Tower Wharf. It is a four-storey building aiming for a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating and will offer 4,450m² of flexible Grade, an open plan office space. The building includes a top floor roof terrace affording views over the adjacent former dockside waterfront and the extensive landscaping that will eventually surround the structure. This project will deliver much needed accommodation and employment opportunities for a scheme which will boost business and generate investment into the area, as per Eric Wright Construction Operations Director Jonathon Rayner. Working on behalf of the main contractor Eric Wright Construction, Leach Structural Steelwork has fabricated, supplied and erected 375t of steel for Tower Wharf. Using one 35t-capacity mobile crane for the entire steel erection programme, Leach also installed 6,000m² of metal decking and two precast staircases during its eight-week onsite programme. A steel construction solution was chosen for this building as it was the most economical. The steel frame is founded on piled foundations and has been designed and erected around an irregular grid pattern to suit the architect’s layout. However, the majority of the grid is based around columns set at 7.5m centres, which suits the curtain walling mullions across the building. The structure is approximately 98m long × 16.5m wide and internally it has a predominantly open plan design, while externally it will be fully clad with glass.
The structure references the materials and proportions of the surrounding buildings, with its recessed ground floor and the stepped back roof profile creating a shape reminiscent of the trade vessels that once would have stood in the nearby docks. Structural stability is achieved by the use of moment frames, and bracing located in lift and stair cores. Additional stability is derived from feature architectural Macalloy cross bracing that has been installed at both end elevations. This will remain visible within the completed scheme, while internally further Macalloy bracing, around staircases, will also be left exposed. This is of huge importance, given that it kick starts the regeneration of Wirral Waters. It is a significant step in Council’s vision to regenerate Wirral, and demonstrates that even at a time of such economic difficulties it continues to make significant progress towards the delivery of their ambitious investment strategy. The challenge is to ensure this exciting vision delivers real benefits for residents and businesses of Wirral and the Liverpool City region.