iAero Centre, Yeovil

Yeovil, Somerset
Willmott Dixon
Somerset County Council

Smart brief development and sector expertise creates unique R&D hub.

The purpose-built iAero (Yeovil) Centre is a high-value technology innovation hub for prototyping and testing the next generation of helicopters and other rotorcraft, one of very few such buildings in the world.

Conceived as a rental space to co-locate SMEs, Tier 1 suppliers and OEMs, its design showcases Stride Treglown’s market-leading expertise in creating the kind of technically advanced and optimally flexible, collaborative spaces required for successful R&D.

Our first task was to develop the brief. We researched trends and best practice to understand the sector’s specific needs, room dimensions, and most promising technologies.

Since contemporary R&D is increasingly interdisciplinary, we ensured that the architecture would promote collaboration and be flexible enough to facilitate as-yet unknown research.

Our design features state-of-the-art facilities and yet can be repurposed easily to other uses. Each rentable unit (workshop or office) has its own dedicated riser which provides access to additional plant space on the roof. Some of the spaces are capable of being subdivided.

The largest workshop has been isolated from the rest of the building to reduce transfer of vibration. This workshop has a detachable mezzanine gantry to accommodate larger rotorcraft, as needed, and comes complete with gantry crane.

The building’s configuration nudges occupiers to interact in a number of subtle ways. The position of toilet cores and tea points funnels people along the same routes, encouraging chance encounters. Wherever possible, walls and doors are glazed to signal transparency and pique curiosity. The atrium area facilitates collaboration with its cafeteria/informal meeting space on the ground floor as well as breakout spaces on the first floor mezzanine.

A conference space has a floor- to-ceiling video screen and subdividing partition to provide the flexibility to host large events or smaller meetings.

Town Planning

Stride Treglown Town Planning, working with architectural colleagues, secured full planning permission in November 2016. This was a pre-requisite condition enabling continued discussions over available funding streams. The project will be the first facility
of its kind in the South West, offering a unique ability to create a safe working environment for advanced, high value, engineering processes which can interface with helicopters and light fixed wing aircraft platforms. In short, it will deliver a facility that reflects the innovative and fast moving requirements of the aerospace industry.

Our Town Planning consultants coordinated a large multi-disciplinary consultant team tasked with creating a striking, and functional design which demonstrated compliance with local planning policy considerations.

The Planning team managed constructive preapplication meetings with the District Council and assisted the County Council in managing a series of engagement and public events leading to the submission of the application. Detailed discussions with the Council prior to Committee enabled appropriate conditions to be worded to safeguard the application of planning policies and enable detailed designs to address technical
issues relating to flooding, landscape management and the flexibility of changing activities within the building.

Described by the Planning Officer as a comprehensive and impressive submission, the
application proposal secured unanimously support from the Committee who cited the employment and technological advantage which the scheme would bring to the town and the SME’s looking to build their capability through collaborative working with key aerospace partners.