ICONIC DESIGN IN HARMONY WITH NATURE

Built between 1999 and 2004 with a look that is as futuristic and stunning now as at the moment of its inauguration, the McLaren Technology Centre symbolizes the company’s design and engineering expertise, coupled with a sustainable approach to architecture. Years later, we look again at the project to analyze the features of this architectural gem, with a special focus on its rooftop.

BUILDING ID
Location

Woking, Surrey, United Kingdom

Project completion

2004

Designed by

Sir Norman Foster (Foster + Partners)

Project type

new build

Building type

offices

Roof surface

ca. 34,000 m²

Roofing membrane

Firestone RubberGard EPDM 1.1 mm

First, some numbers and background information to put things into perspective. The McLaren Technology Centre is the headquarters of the McLaren Group and its subsidiaries, located on a 500,000 m² (50-hectare) site near the city of Woking, England. The building’s 57,000 m² of office space is home to approximately 1,000 employees, in an area large enough to hold nine Boeing 747 jumbo jets. The building houses offices, design studios, laboratories and testing facilities for Formula One and high-performance sports cars.

The design was entrusted to renowned British architect Sir Norman Foster and his company, Foster + Partners, who are responsible for iconic landmarks such as “The Gherkin” in central London. The building of the McLaren Technology Centre is a large, semi-circular glass-walled structure. Its continuous, curved glass façade overlooks an artificial lake which forms another semi-circular shape. Viewed from the sky, the building and the lake resemble the Chinese Yin-Yang symbol.

At the heart of the building lies a large wind tunnel, an essential tool for the design and development of modern racing cars. Besides its obvious aesthetic appeal, the large artificial lake also fulfills an important function, helping to cool the electronics and the wind tunnel, which can generate great heat. 

In line with their vision to deliver a sustainable, energy-efficient and inspiring workplace, with real benefits for the environment and well-being of the people working inside the building, Foster + Partners placed great importance on minimizing the visual impact of the project on the local landscape. Therefore, they limited the height of the large surface building so that it would not exceed the size of the surrounding trees. 

Inviting as much natural light as possible inside the buildings is a signature element of Sir Foster’s architectural style. It was no different in this case: in addition to the light streaming in through the curved steel and glass façade overlooking the lake, the roof design included several skylights above the office section of the building.

WHY EPDM?

Foster + Partners chose Firestone’s RubberGard EPDM as a roofing membrane to cover the 34,000 m² flat roof of the McLaren Technology Centre. The choice was influenced by EPDM’s ability to adapt to the building’s irregular, curved shapes and its life expectancy of over 50 years. In addition to being a self-cleaning roof, it also allows the collection of rainwater by means of a high-pressure syphonic drainage system. This water is then used to refill the artificial lake. As EPDM is an inert material which does not release toxic substances, the water is safe for the lake’s aquatic flora and fauna.

At the time of its opening in 2004, McLaren’s former chairman and CEO Ron Dennis said: “The Technology Centre is a model for the new technological optimism and a showcase of industrial architecture for the 21st century. Together with our partners, the McLaren Group has created a building that, as well as being forward-thinking in design and construction, provides an environment that will motivate and influence the people who will work within it.”

The design of McLaren’s Technology Centre and its minimization of carbon impact have earned it several awards. The building received the “Building of the Year Award 2005” and was shortlisted for the 2005 Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize, which is the most prestigious architecture award in the United Kingdom.

THE ROOF ASSEMBLY
01

RubberGard EPDM roofing membrane

02

PIR insulation

03

Vapor control membrane

04

Concrete roof deck

There is a lot to
discover about EPDM

EPDM is the most future-proof roofing solution when it comes to sustainability, performance and design freedom. Learn more about the role it played within this project and many others by discovering its benefits.

How did EPDM elevate this project?

BLUE ROOFS

Viital to new architecture? The roof’s water management capability. EPDM works great on blue roofs that retain water, slow down the drainage and are linked up with water harvesting systems — all because of its impeccable waterproofing features.

UNUSUAL FORMS

Freedom of design is key to those creating big things. Thanks to its flexibility and availability in big, single-ply sheets, EPDM supports creative solutions. It also enables future transformations and placing new objects on the roof.

Designing beyond limitations

Our buildings become symbolic of the times we live in, reflecting the spirit of a given era, attending to different needs, lifestyles, functions… “Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness”, says one of the most prominent architects of our time, Frank Gehry. Exploration of the emerging technological possibilities and imagining how a new value can be created in people’s lives, have been the guiding principles of the architectural pioneers compelled to respond to the challenges of their time. Today’s key challenge - sustainability - is adding new dimensions to the debate, bringing together form, function, the responsible choice of materials and long-term thinking. Keeping up has never been more important.