Elstree Studios – The Platinum Stages
Located just 20 min from the heart of London, Elstree Studios has been synonymous with filmmaking for almost a century. As part of their continued investment, they seek to create an additional 38,000 sq. ft of filming space in the form of two linked Soundstages. The proposed site was the former filming and production area for “The big brother house” and is adjacent to the backlot (external filming area) currently housing the set for “The Crown” TV series.
The proposed new stages would need to achieve exceptional acoustic properties to safeguard occupiers from environmental disturbances from the urban and noisy surroundings as well as aiming to exceed acoustic standards of similar developments.
Crucial to the choice of construction system was also the speed of erection of the shell, in order to keep the “down time” of the adjacent backlot to a minimum. Once the shell was completed, the internal fitout of the Soundstages could then carry on with very little disruption to the operations of the rest of Elstree Studios. Finally, the system needed to be capable of supporting a rainscreen cladding with a design that would align with Hertsmere’s design guide.
To overcome the above challenges, the design team devised a multilayer system for both walls and roof. The main element is a highly engineered timber cassette designed to combine a number of requirements, including very high sound absorption, as well as 60-minutes fire resistance. The high level of prefabrication also guaranteed the cassettes could be constructed 2/3 faster than conventional construction. Additional insulation layers were added internally to achieve the required overall acoustic targets for each Soundstage (Stage 2 55db and Stage 1 70db). Finally, the external rainscreen cladding materials and pattern was designed to align with the aspirations of the Hertsmere Design Guide, whilst the roof was able to support a high number of PV panels that helped to achieve the high sustainability credentials of the development.
THE BENEFITS – SPEED OF CONSTRUCTION
Construction of the Soundstages and supporting workshops and offices took only 13 months, despite extensive demolition, ground contamination and more than 30 days of pre-agreed “non-Construction” days because of external filming in the adjacent backlot areas. This was mainly due to the innovative construction approach and the rapid erection of the prefabricated elements. Using a crane, erection of cassettes only needed a small nucleus crew, unlike traditional building methods like concrete or brick and mortar. The use of the cassettes eliminated the need for scaffolding and decreased the amount of site staff working at height. They reduced the level of work from follow on trades and the lift and bolt erection method meant wet trades were all but removed. All these factors accelerated the build schedule.
THE BENEFITS – SUSTAINABILITY
As with all timber products, there was the additional benefit of sustainability. Cassettes use either PEFC or FSC certified timber, sourced from managed forests. Whilst panels are a combination of materials, unlike pure CLT, they still act as a carbon sink. The timber used typically contains around 50% carbon (in comparison with its net weight). This helps determine an estimate for a building’s carbon footprint and gave our client the added satisfaction of knowing their project was environmentally friendly. In addition, It is estimated that the reduction in secondary steel from walls and roof removed around 15-20 tonnes of steel per stage, which would have equated to an additional 100 tonnes of CO2 emitted by the project.
The Soundstages, completed in June 2022, were built for £2,434 per m² (£226 sq. ft.) excluding the specialist cladding required by the planners that cost an additional £166 per m². (15 sq.ft.)
Upon completion the acoustic testing verified the very high targets set for each Soundstage. The feedback from the current occupiers has been extremely positive and already the Platinum Soundstages are making their mark in the Film Industry as a world class facility.