Featured Project

The Forthriver Innovation Factory, Belfast

New centre provides a dynamic entrepreneurial nucleus for start-up
Businesses and expanding firms specialising in research and development, innovation and other creative solutions…

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The £9.1million Innovation Factory is a pioneering, creative business space at Forthriver Business Park on the Springfield Road, Belfast, just 10 minutes from the city centre. It provides 55,000 square feet of flexible workspace, set over four floors, on the site of the former Mackie & Sons engineering factory and was officially opened in October.

The 52-week project for Belfast City Council,  part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland, was procured by Heron Bros under a design and build contract.
Site Manager, Brian Magill, said, “due to the brownfield ground conditions, the main works comprise a complex foundation design. The back of the site is piled and the front of it has pad and ground beam foundations with a deep trench fill. The ground floor slab is ground-bearing, supporting a steel frame structure and metal deck upper floors.

“The roof is pitch and is covered with a standing seam insulated roof system with two large roof lights/atriums. The external façade comprises a cavity wall construction with a red Belfast facing brick externally, to mirror the historical factor and mill usage of the site, and internal framing system. Curtain walling, windows and doors are all aluminium.”
Externally, the site was developed to provide ample car parking for the new centre along with drainage, fencing and hard and soft landscaped areas.

The building is intended for start-up companies, as well as existing small-to-medium enterprises in Belfast. The office accommodation includes 382 workstations across 111 business units, and will house more than 100 businesses and entrepreneurs at full capacity. The offices are fully fitted to Grade A standard, and provide flexibility to allow expansion as individual tenants grow.

Heron Bros developed and implemented its Stakeholder Engagement Strategy, which involved working collaboratively with stakeholders to ensure that the needs of the end-user were considered.  Through monthly meetings, the team gained an insight into design elements to improve the end-user’s experience. This collaborative approach resulted in the delivery of a high-quality office space providing fully serviced facilities, meeting and conference rooms, hot-desks, superfast broadband, 24/7 access for tenants, and on-site catering.

The building was designed and built to BREEAM ‘Very Good’ rating. The design utilised natural materials, maximises natural light and achieved excellent acoustic and air permeability performance. Energy-efficient and complex smart technologies have been installed, and the building was awarded Sustainable Project of the Year at the Sustainable Ireland Awards 2016.

The project has been designed to BIM Level 2 and, with the use of the collaboration tool, Aconex, the client had constant real-time access to design information. Using BIM, Heron Bros encouraged collaboration with stakeholders, which positively influenced the culture of the project as the company’s online knowledge-sharing platform ensured that everyone was kept informed.

BIM also enabled Heron Bros to co-ordinate three primary design functions – integrate supply chain design, and identify conflicts and clashes. The company provided BIM training and also supported suppliers who were not yet BIM enabled.

This resulted in the project being completed three weeks ahead of schedule, on time and on budget.
Turner & Townsend Project Manager, Colm Lavery, stated, “The relationship with the Heron Bros team has been very collaborative. The completion ahead of programme and the smooth handover are a testament to the professionalism of the Heron project team.”

The collaborative approach didn’t stop there. Located in proximity to one of Belfast’s well-known peace lines, the project required careful co-ordination and continual liaison through Heron Bros’ Considerate Constructors Programme with local community groups, residents, Belfast City Council and police, to gain complete community support for the project.

All of the social clause targets were met in full or exceeded by the contractor, resulting in over 220 employment weeks being provided for the long-term unemployed, 343 placement weeks being delivered and 10 apprenticeships being sustained throughout the contract.

The project was also proved a success for the pilot of the company’s bespoke Keystone Quality Control & Defect Management app, delivering it with zero defects. The company also delivered the project within a very strict timescale, with pre-contract design meetings providing a platform to identify opportunities to improve performance, increase efficiency and fast-track the programme.

This was also complemented by Heron Bros’ project team at The Innovation Factory also had an exceptional commitment to health and safety. They demonstrated careful site management, and attention to training and supervision, ensuring good communication with stakeholders and promoting an excellent health and safety culture.

Developing health and safety initiatives in accordance with the company’s Start Smart business improvement programme, the team’s diligence towards health and safety was evident by achieving zero accidents and 74,000 accident-free working hours.



Heron Bros Ltd,
2 St Patrick’s Street, Draperstown, BT45 7AL
T: 028 7962 8505 – E: info@heronbros.com

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