Ambulance and Fire Service Resource Centre, Wrexham

Creating a new home for those who save our lives 

BAM has delivered the £15 million Welsh Ambulance Services Trust (WAST) Ambulance and Fire Service Resource Centre in Wrexham. 

Project details

  • Customer: Welsh Ambulance Services Trust (WAST)

  • Architect: IBI Nightingale

  • Quantity surveyor: Aecom

  • Structural engineer: Arup

  • M&E services engineer: Arup

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12,000 m3 Fact icon excavated earth stockpiled site from a previous housing development. This needed treating and then by re-designing the site levels.
10,000 m3 Fact icon excavated earth reused by BAM to create a flood platform
35 Fact icon trees protected by a 15m wide ecological buffer or corridor along the river bank. It also protects the whole biodiversity of the watercourse and river bank habitat.

Protecting the natural habitat and wildlife

The River Gwenfro flows around the site and poses a number of ecological and logistical issues. Says our Construction Manager Ian Greener: “It supports otters, which are a protected species, so we set up otter proof temporary fencing until permanent fencing could be installed. This extends into the ground and excludes burrowing mammals from the site both during construction and when the facility is operational.” 

One condition of sale by the local council was that a 15m wide ecological corridor be maintained along the length of the river bank. This applied during construction and had to be incorporated as a feature of the design proposal. It protects the whole biodiversity of the watercourse and river bank habitat and creates a buffer for 35 trees.

Inside the corridor, the team then discovered the rapid growth of Himalayan balsam, a cousin to Japanese Knotweed, which required treating.

Approximately 12,000 m3 of excavated earth had been stockpiled on the site from a previous housing development. This needed treating and by re-designing the site levels the team were then able to reuse 10,000 m3 to create a flood platform. The rest was unsuitable and had to be taken away. Ian Greener adds: “We got on site to find asbestos, domestic refuse and old gas cylinders left over by unauthorised temporary occupants.”

Addressing the risk of flooding through re-design

The site is located within a flood plain and any proposals had to be agreed with the Environment Agency.
“We weren’t allowed to compromise the flood capacity of the area as that would have a detrimental impact on surrounding properties, including the adjacent hospital. Our engineers had to re-run the flood modelling data a number of times to determine an optimal split of the site for how much could flood and how much could be built on. That meant the footprint of the building had to be re-positioned and a big re-think on design was needed."

Ian Greener

BAM Construction Manager

All of these issues had to be agreed in principle with the Environment Agency and council planners as part of the planning application process.  

There was also a 400mm diameter water main that ran beneath the main build so once the stockpiles were removed this had to be diverted in order for BAM to start work on piling the foundations. That took nine weeks longer than originally advised but as it was the client’s risk they agreed an extension to the programme.

In addition Welsh Water need 24 hours vehicular access to an existing pumping station at the far end of the site so BAM has had to maintain a special route for them running through the length of the works.

How the re-design works

The re-configured design has seen very little impact on the building, with car parking feeling the main squeeze. It is an interesting facility too – the combining of ambulance and fire services being something that is expected may well occur more frequently around the UK.

Whereas most buildings are about people, this one is also aimed very closely at vehicles.

There is a fully fitted-out garage to house the fire trucks and ambulances, service and “make-ready” areas to maintain them and dedicated parking bays with vehicle charging points that ensure on board equipment is fully charged. 

The piled steel frame structure has a striking eight metre steel canopy that affords protection from the elements for the vehicles. This is cantilevered from heavy duty columns connected back into the main steel frame and determined the overall erection sequence.

The facility has some accommodation for 24-7 operational service, such as bedrooms, a kitchen and gymnasium, and benefits from an attractive roof lighting scheme.

A separate Fire Training House with linked tower and a Road Traffic Collision area will provide training facilities for fire-fighting and rescue practises. The training tower is designed to be filled with smoke and has window shutters that make it completely dark inside so that crews can replicate realistic rescue scenarios.

Something that really helped this scheme, Ian says, is that part of the original business case was to also build an ambulance only, make-ready depot (MRD) at Dobshill. Due to the lengthy land acquisition process for this site the client decided to separate the two schemes, allowing us to build the MRD in 2011.

“Working together previously has allowed the BAM, design and client teams to get to know each other so throughout the difficulties, we’ve kept good relationships.”

And in the end, that’s the secret to many construction successes, as the Wrexham scheme itself is proving after a very warm official opening in September 2016.