FUCHS Lubricants are a global group which originated in Germany. They have developed, produced and sold lubricants for more than 85 years. FUCHS has approximately 60 companies and almost 5000 employees worldwide and they are the leading independent supplier of lubricants. FUCHS decided to undergo some factory extension works at their UK site in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. The project included creating new offices, car parking and access to the buildings.
FUCHS LUBRICANTS SITE DEVELOPMENT
As part of a planned development of the FUCHS UK site in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. A factory extension and new office buildings would include the wider site (an area of approx. 2,300m2). This comprised the upper and lower level car parking areas, local site access roads, pedestrian access and connecting walkways to the buildings and car parks. Together with the installation of architectural landscaping feature walls and planting schemes close to the main office buildings.
FUCHS was keen to explore a gabion retaining wall solution for the project. To not only facilitate an effective, practical solution to address the difference in levels throughout the site. But also to capitalise on the clean, precise and modern architectural look. That can be achieved with the use of gabion mesh baskets when filled with naturally occurring stone. Arthur M Griffiths and Sons approached Enviromesh to design and supply the gabion walls. Enviromesh won the gabion package based on a referral from Arthur M Griffiths after previously working with them. After Enviromesh were awarded the project there were various official meetings both on-site and at the Enviromesh offices. These were set up to discuss the designs, gabion baskets and types of stone which could be used. The meetings were with the client, architect and main contractor.
One of the client’s key objectives for this project would present Enviromesh with one of their main challenges. The choice of stone for any gabion wall is critical to the visual appearance of the finished structure. In this case, the client specified a dark blue/grey Welsh slate, with a pillared face. A sawn back and a riven top and bottom. FUCHS had selected this particular material to make the visual connection with the design of the cladding applied to the main headquarters. As well as giving the finished walls a natural ‘dry-stone wall’ effect.
Prior to any work being undertaken, Enviromesh constructed a sample wall on site for approval using the selected materials. By providing an accurate representation of the wall’s materials and visual characteristics. Enviromesh were able to alleviate any potential concerns before the client committed to a much larger-scale investment.
PILLARED WELSH SLATE
Delivery of the Welsh Slate is in cubic meters and non-uniform in size. Therefore it would need to be machine-cut prior to installation. This requires the use of specialist equipment and would mean introducing an additional ‘stage’ to the construction schedule. Pillared Welsh slate is certainly at the more expensive end of the scale for stone fill materials. So filling the baskets completely with slate would be costly and perhaps unnecessary. The challenge then would be to provide a solution that is acceptable to the client relating to the overall budget. However, one that did not compromise the structural integrity of the wall or its visual appearance.
The cost of using the Welsh slate to fully fill the baskets was prohibitive. Resulting is re-specifying the design to use the slate as the facing stone. Therefore utilising the 6G Granite gabion stone as backfill material. The contrasting nature of the materials used in the gabion baskets filled using a combination of slate and granite. This meant each basket would need filling by hand. Slate has a more linear characteristic than granite. However, the non-uniform sizes of the Welsh slate gave the finished walls a more natural feel. There was a considerable amount of work carried out by hand.
Using more conventional tools, to ensure the gabions with a dual fill looked as natural as possible. Particularly given their more prominent position. Whilst hand-filling would undoubtedly slow the build process. Reducing the potential for any settlement within the baskets vastly improves the integrity of the gabion units. It also meant avoiding the possibility of introducing voids into the fill. Which may otherwise have allowed the stone inside to move.