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Fleetguard Factory
Route de Rosporden, Kergonan, Quimper, Brittany, France
associated engineer
Ove Arup & Partners
Peter Rice
date  1979 - October 1981
UK era  Modern  |  category  Building  |  reference  Sg477891
The Fleetguard Factory in Brittany, western France, is an award-winning example of a masted structure. It was designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership, and remains in manufacturing use. The structural scheme optimises the use of materials and maximises internal space, providing layout flexibility and expansion-ability. Later additional facilities on the site include a distribution centre.
Masted structures are of course nothing new — a tent held up by a pole is a simple masted structure. Many modern-era bridges use this form and the concept was applied to buildings in the 19th century. Historical examples include the Panorama des Champs Elysées (constructed 1839, demolished 1855) in Paris, designed by Jacques Ignace Hittorff (1792-1867), and a temporary structure for the 1865 German Song Festival in Dresden.
In the 20th century, masted structural solutions became popular with designers of lightweight structures for a variety of uses. The Fleetguard Factory, engineered by Ove Arup & Partners (structures and services), represented by director Peter Rice (1935-1992) for the structural design, is a significant industrial example of the genre.
The factory is located in the industrial zone to the east of Quimper and specialises in manufacturing heavy duty air, fuel and oil filters for engines. It was designed for minimal intrusion on the land, with surplus excavated material being used for landscaping, and access roads kept to the site’s perimeter.
The single-storey building is broadly L-shaped in plan and built to an 18m square module. It's based on a rectangle measuring 126m by 72m, with an area 54m by 18m taken away from the north-east corner. The factory is constructed in steel and is an open-plan flat-roofed shed with external dynamic suspension and a concrete foundation. At the north end of the building is a mezzanine floor for offices, accessed by a glazed stairwell. The remainder of the interior is used for manufacturing.
Each 18m square bay has a mast at each corner above roof level, plus 12 vertical hangars (connected to the roof beams) on a 6m square grid. The Masts are 355mm diameter hollow steel tubes, fabricated in two pieces and welded together on site. The hangers are 114mm diameter tubes. A network of solid steel tension rods, 26.5-40mm thick, tie everything together, resisting gravity, wind uplift and unbalanced loading. In situ connections are bolted or pinned.
Around the perimeter of the roop, the masts and diagonal rods connect to horizontal tubular restraints 244mm in diameter, tied to the foundations with 55mm rods. Except on the south side of the building, which is used for loading and unloading, inclined tubular restraints of the same size connect to the masts at roof level for additional bracing.
This arrangement cuts the effective roof span from 18m to 6m, allowing the use of slender steel members, reducing the structural depth of the roof and decreasing the building’s total mass. Making the structure external leaves the internal roof zone available for a flexible services layout. Demountable double-skin insulated wall cladding panels are articulated from the supporting frame, visually separated from the roof by a narrow band of high-level glazing.
The building’s steel components total 47kg per sq m, or about 17% less weight than a conventional steel structure with comparable bay size. When completed in 1981, the factory had a floor area of 8,750 sq m and the potential for expansion to 40,000 sq m over 15 years.
Modular construction makes this a highly adaptable building, enabling extensions or change of use on a bay-by-bay basis. The consistent set of structural elements are readily fabricated and joined, and connections to the existing structure can to be made without removing the cladding, minimising disruption in the factory.
In 1982, the Fleetguard Factory was awarded the Concours de Plus Beaux Ouvrages de Construction Metallique and the Premier Award for Exceptional Steel Structure, France. In 1986, it won the Constructa Preis for Overall Excellence in the Field of Architecture.
The original building hasn't in fact been extended (as of 2014). However, some time before 2006, a separate distribution centre was built on the site, east of the factory, increasing the built area to 15,500 sq m.
In 2006, the American-owned company Fleetguard changed its name to Cummins Filtration, to reflect the identity of its parent company Cummins Inc. In the same year, the factory produced 10 million filters.
Architect: Richard Rogers Partnership
Project manager: Fleetguard International Corporation
Quantity surveyor: Northcroft Neighbour and Nicholson
Research: ECPK
"The Way We Build Now: Form, Scale and Technique" by Andrew Orton, Spon Press, London and New York, 2013
"Masted Structures in Architecture" by James B. Harris, Architectural Press, Abingdon and New York, 1996

Fleetguard Factory