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Peate ploughs on to create award-winning roofscape design

26th July 2023
Image of Harry Peate, truss designer at Truss Form (Midlands) Ltd standing next to Richard Jarvis.

Refurbishing an existing building is never entirely straightforward. But when it’s also Grade II listed structure built over 180 years ago, any conversion project is a massive challenge, both demanding a sensitive and appropriate degree of restoration and dealing with the quirkiness of British architectural history.

That’s why, when it came to restoring the roof on an old brewery building in Burton-on-Trent, the local builders merchant recommended Truss Form (Midlands) Limited due to its capability and experience in designing unusual roof designs.

Truss Form (Midlands) Limited’s inhouse designer, Harry Peate, took on the challenge, which led him to win the Conversion and Residential Project of the Year at the TRA’s 2023 Roofscape Design Awards.

The job for Harry

Truss Form (Midlands) Limited is best known for its precision-made trusses and joists, chosen by architects and builders to create striking and innovative buildings in a more efficient and cost-effective way. It is a founding member of the Trussed Rafter Association (TRA) and has over 30 years of experience as a leading trussed rafter designer and manufacturer.

Harry joined the company six years ago and started making joists in the factory, but he was quickly recognised for his talent and moved into the production office. Within six months of his promotion, Harry moved into the design department and was the natural choice to tackle this project.

The Plough Maltings project involved converting a large building constructed in the 1840s for Bass Brewery. The building had fallen into disrepair and was abandoned until planning permission was granted in 2016 to convert it into a mix of 32 luxury studio, one and two-bedroom apartments.

Work on the project did not begin until 2022, and one of the project’s many challenges was to fully reinstate the existing traditional roof without changing any levels, brickwork or appearance.

Timber trussed rafters had already been chosen as the best structural solution, but a site survey revealed that the existing roof with its original drying louvres was over 5 metres in height, which was too high to manufacture and transport as a single truss.

A complex piece of timber engineering

Harry and his team were therefore tasked with incorporating the louvres as part of the secondary top hat truss and designing cantilevered support for the uppermost hip ends. They also had to consider vertical cladding and wind loads to vertical faces and allow a trapezoidal snow drift load to be applied to the trusses.

The eaves detailing was also unusual due to the 600mm thickness of the existing wall, which required precise setting to ensure that the roof pitch and rafter line matched the adjacent block without altering the external brickwork detail.

To comply with the building’s fire strategy, the team designed two trusses to carry fire blankets and two openings trimmed out for automatic opening vents. They also supplied 166 trusses and infill, with an order value of approximately £20,000, which equated to 21 cubic metres of PEFC-certified timber.

The project was a huge success, with the roof trusses fitting perfectly both dimensionally and aesthetically to help restore the building to its former glory.

A proud moment for Harry was seeing the final photos and knowing that everything had fit and looked like it originally did. The Truss Form team were excited to have played a role in restoring such a prominent and historic building.

The TRA Roofscape Design Awards judges made this project the highest scoring of all the 2023 awards entries. They described it as “a very strong winner delivering complex unusual shapes which really showcases what can be achieved with trussed rafters.

“This entry had an excellent project description with photographs of the existing building and drawings and photographs of the new roof. It was clearly challenging to match the new roof to the old – a very specific requirement as the building is Grade 2 listed, and it was a large and complex roofscape. A scheme that received high marks in all categories making it the highest-scoring entry in all classes.”

Harry also became a father for the first time to daughter Grace just one week before the announcement of his award-winning project, so it was celebrations all around.

Harry offers this advice for those who want to become designers in the timber engineering industry:

“Be ambitious and flexible. This industry has many roles, and you can find something you enjoy and excel at with the right attitude. Lastly, never underestimate the value of having a good team around you and don’t be afraid to take their advice and learn from their experience.”

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