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08–10 OCTOBER 2019 | NEC | BIRMINGHAM News

The Social Shell - Performance Plywood®

19 Jul 2021
Hanson Plywood Ltd
High Quality Plywood

‘The Social Shell’ is a pavilion constructed entirely from Performance Plywood® which is CE marked and tested to meet EN 636 Use Class 3 thus making it suitable for structural components in exterior conditions. Performance Plywood was considered to be the ideal solution for the Scale Rule project.


Project Concept

Arup and Leonard Design Architects ran a two-day, weekend workshop driven by the concept designs of secondary school students who have a passion for architectural/design industry. The goal was to design this pavilion from the ground up with sketches, models and a clear understanding of the engineering methods it would take to put this together. 

The concept of the project was to create a piece of art whilst giving students an opportunity to develop an understanding of architectural and design processes and to also inspire them at a young age to consider careers, and gain experience for the future. The aim of the workshop was to train the students in skills of design and construction.

Product Specification

The project required a plywood panel that would withstand exterior conditions.

Hanson Plywood strongly advocate that construction specifications should be satisfied with products that are fit-for-purpose after considering the actual application, and the particular performance criteria required. With this in mind, the company developed a product that is specifically intended for the construction industry and offers full technical and environmental classifications. 

Performance Plywood was therefore presented to the organisers of the Social Shell as a product which would reliably meet the criteria required for a high-performance panel which may be exposed to the elements over a long period of time. 

Planning & Construction

The initial stages of the project required students to work on 3D design in a real-life project which once completed, prompted the winning pavilion’s name ‘The Social Shell’. The idea was initiated by the students, and then further developed by Arup and Leonard design.

The build-up of the pavilion was a detailed and precise exercise as it had to take into consideration time and equipment needed.  The biggest challenge was understanding what mechanical fixings to use in order to minimise visible bolts and screws. It was a testing process to create a structure which was not only aesthetically appealing, but also safe and stable.

The Social Shell was completed in July 2019. From design to build, the pavilion took just over a year with the help of a multitude of organisations and industry professionals. Quad CNC in Nottingham machined, itemised, flat packed and delivered 60+ sheets of Performance Plywood using CNC routers. The design was created to minimise work on site so the pavilion could be constructed easily and transported to different locations with minimum effort.

UK Construction Week

he Social Shell attracted interest from the organisers of UK Construction week. The show held at the NEC is the UK’S largest built environment event consisting of an array of different shows and sections including build, building tech, civils, surface & materials and timber. Hanson Plywood are in regular attendance at the show to present a full range of fit-for-purpose panels.

At the 2019 show, the company had a dedicated focus on Performance Plywood running alongside the ‘The Social Shell’ pavilion which was chosen as the main feature in the timber section.

‘The Social Shell’ was not only an eye-catching sculpture but also acted as a hub for multiple seminars on subjects such as the TTF’s UK Timber Regulation Workshop and many more informative discussions. 

Hanson Plywood have a keen interest in working with Architects and Designers to ensure the correct panel products are specified and used throughout the construction industry.

We are delighted that Performance Plywood was used for this project and has helped towards providing inspiration for the next generation of professionals in this field.

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