This exciting project, situated close to a major wind farm, required a sheathing board with exceptional pull-over performance; and the need for unusual board sizes meant that waste was an issue, particularly in light of the architect’s BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating ambitions.

  • The Project: Hugh Baird Community and Higher Education Centre, Liverpool
  • Project Value: £8 million
  • Main Contractor: Wates Construction North West
  • Sub-Contractor: Sound Interiors Limited
  • Product: Versapanel
  • Size: 1200 — 2800 — 12mm
  • Quantity: 2,000m2

About the Project

An £8 million, 2,600 square metre project, the new Hugh Baird Community and Higher Education Centre in Liverpool offers an innovative mix of facilities, not only for Hugh Baird’s students and apprentices but also to the local community, schools and businesses.

The facility will incorporate a University Centre, a flexible performance and exhibition space, a public library and a Jobcentre Plus. A new Business Development Centre, providing professional training for local businesses, is also to be a core feature.

Architects IBI Taylor Young have created a striking modern design, incorporating a semi-rotunda feature and a three-storey overhanging box structure.

The Challenge

There were two key challenges on this project for sub-contractors Sound Interiors Limited. Firstly, the unusual design called for non-standard panel sizes. This is becoming all too common as contemporary architecture moves increasingly toward the unique and, in some cases, the downright eccentric.

Secondly, the five-storey structure is located in a windy area; so windy, in fact, that, less than a mile away, you can find the Port of Liverpool 10MW wind farm, capable of generating electricity for 5,500 homes. Where wind is a factor, the pull-over performance of any building boards used is critical, particularly during construction when wind can penetrate the structure and create areas of negative wind pressure.

The Solution

Size is Everything

As modern British architecture moves away from the conventional, the challenges for construction professionals like Sound Interiors increase. Whilst, in the past, construction has largely been a logistically focused endeavour — the ‘when’ and ‘where’ of it all — increasingly, the question that dominates the pre-construction phase of a project is ‘How?’

The skill and experience of Sound Interiors came into play not only in applying their technical knowhow to the challenges of constructing an overhanging box and creating a curving rotunda from flat building boards, it also influenced their choice of materials.

Said John Sheeran, Contracts Manager at Sound Interiors Limited, “We opted for Euroform’s Versapanel on this project — and numerous other projects — because it’s easy to work with and reliable. Plus we get exceptionally good technical support from the team at Euroform. For the Hugh Baird project, where lots of unusual sizes were required, the fact that Versapanel is available in a larger 1200 — 2800 — 12mm size meant we could dramatically reduce wastage. This material-conscious approach also helps us support IBI Taylor Young’s ambition of achieving a BREEAM rating of ‘Very Good’ for the building.”

Under Pressure

It’s no coincidence that four 125-metre Nordex N90, 2.5-MW turbines, capable of producing a total of 10MW of electricity, have been strategically located just a mile or so away. This is a windy area of Liverpool. Thankfully, Sound Interiors’ commitment to Versapanel also resolved this second challenge, reducing the effects of negative wind pressure during construction.

John Taylor, Business Development Manager at Euroform, said, “Versapanel makes the ideal sheathing panel for challenging construction environments. For areas of high wind load, such as coastal regions, a board with effective wind-load and pull-over performance can be extremely important. Obviously, no two projects are alike, and we’re only too happy to work closely with professionals like Sound Interiors to ensure the best possible outcome.”


This isn’t the first time that Sound Interiors, Euroform and Versapanel have come together to overcome adverse weather condition. At Gogarth School in Llandudno, freezing temperatures and driving rain presented a significant challenge. At Hugh Baird, it was strong winds. In both cases a desire to reduce waste was a key commitment of all parties involved. And in both cases, a successful outcome was enjoyed by all.